CPBD 048: Konrad Talmont-Kaminski – Naturalism and Supernaturalism

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 20, 2010 in Podcast,Science

(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview philosopher Konrad Talmont-Kaminski. Among other things, we discuss:

  • Varieties of naturalism in philosophy
  • How to make philosophy more like science
  • How much philosophy is dependent on the psychology of philosophers
  • How to do philosophy with limited abilities
  • What causes religion, and what causes atheism

Download CPBD episode 048 with Konrad Talmont-Kaminski. Total time is 59:42.

konradKonrad Talmont-Kaminski links:

Links for things we discussed:

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Reginald Selkirk June 20, 2010 at 6:24 am

How to do philosophy with limited abilities

You’re deliberately baiting us, aren’t you?


lukeprog June 20, 2010 at 7:25 am


How so?


Andy Walters June 20, 2010 at 8:50 am

Did anyone else notice Konrad looks a lot like Chris North, aka “Mr. Big” from Sex and the City?


jebediah June 20, 2010 at 9:06 am

Haha, you watch sex and the city. :)


Rob June 20, 2010 at 10:02 am

Fantastic interview. I wish it was twice as long.


Reginald Selkirk June 20, 2010 at 11:32 am
fraukus June 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm


Great interview. My only quip would be that I was hoping for some debunking or at least a small conversation about Plantinga’s attack on naturalism. I would love to hear or read Konrad’s thoughts. All-in-all though it was a great listen and informative. Lots to ponder.

Per your last point (Sacred and Secular)I was wondering if you’ve read this study:

“The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctiona Psychosociological Conditions” by Gregory Paul



Rich Griese June 20, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Hey Luke & Eric,

This is a comment relevant to both your recent efforts on the topic of naturalism.
Luke interviews philosopher Konrad Talmont-Kaminski about some varieties of philosophical naturalism and the differences between naturalism and supernaturalism.

June 20, 2010 10:00 AM: Konrad Talmont-Kaminski – Naturalism and Supernaturalism

File; archive.org/download/ConversationsFromThePaleBlueDot048KonradTalmont-kaminski/…

RSS; commonsenseatheism.com/…

I wanted to offer a clarification on something you almost stated in your conversations with Konrad Talmont-Kaminski.

I would explain philosophy as “brainstorming”. You folks talked about it as something like, “before sience”. I think the concept of brainstorming is very useful to explain philosophy to people. We are familiar with the idea of brainstorming as being useful before we try to actually DO something that we don’t understand or have not done before. BUT… we understand that after we have brainstormed we have not actually accomplished that goal, and now we have to actually DO the thing, which we then get done with the tools we have created, that we now call science.

I would also submit that our classic understanding of “philosophy” is now very antiquated. Meaning, we think of Plato as a philosopher. Yet, if Plato lived today, he would obvious do experiments to confirm some of his ideas. In effect, we have discovered and created more tools since the old days. And now what we called a philosopher WAS is not just a portion of life. Meaning, we are being philosophical when we do the brain storming part of the project, and then we are being engineers when we are building it.

Philosophy now is a technique for trying to think out potential approaches to solving problems we have not yet solved. But the philosophical thought, still needs to then be verified and demonstrated, before we would want to consider it correct, or consider anything actually useful being done.

I am also including this post in a comment thread I posted on a blog by Eric Reitan that I had commented on earlier. He is a supernaturalist, and happens to ALSO be doing some thinking about naturalism.

To tie this into the supernaturalism train of thought. Here is he problems I see with the supernaturalist in terms of the religious supernaturalist. If we accept that our philosophy is the brain storming and the pre-steps to advancing out knowledge. The problem with supernaturalistic religious ideas, is that in the multiple thousands of years that people have been using philosophy in the brain storming process, they have simply never been able to move forward any more than the speculative brain storming phase.

Now… there could be a reason for that. IF they are brain storming on a concept that just does not have a reality, then they will never be able to move forward from the brain storming phase. If I was brain storming on how I would be able to get Santa Clause to deliver toys on August 5th instead of December 25th, I may be able to come up with some philosophically speculative methods of doing this in the brain storming phase. But, when it comes to application and then examination of the success of my idea and results, that will simply never be able to be done.

Societies have put a lot ofefforts in philosophical speculative brain storming ideas of gods. But have not been able to take a step beyond the brain storming phase.

It is interesting that society as a whole has not realized that this might be because the topic is simply not a reality, and therefore may not any longer be worth the time.

It is interesting that Konrad mentions some work done on the study of supernaturalism, and the cognitive aspects of that both for individuals and for society.

I have been studying the history of early christianity for almost 20 years now. And I often notice how difficult it is for supernaturalists to do. While my interest is history, due to the topic, I obviously can’t help from coming in contact with people that have a supernaturalistic view of the subject. I really appreciate hearing about these potential books on the subject.

This was a WONDERFUL interview for me. I find that while I am not interested in atheism or philosophy specifically, that I am very often surprised how much I enjoy your interviews. You are a very good interviewer, and I generally enjoy hearing you question your interviewee in a way that allows them to have their say. You do a good job at asking the right questions to get them to talk, but you also get out of the way and don’t try to show off your knowledge, talk over them, or direct the interview to some predetermined end point. You are good at this.

BTW… an aside. I also love librivox.org, and recently noticed that you are going to be a reader in some of the chapters of a book i am about to listen to;

The History of the Christian Church by Samuel Cheetham;


Is there anything you DON’T do? Didn’t I also see you doing stand up comedy someplace. You are a busy man.



Rob (another one) June 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Bravo, Luke. This interview — specifically the later portion of it on the dual-inheritance models of religion — marks a welcome broadening of scope beyond mere philosophy of religion practitioners to, I hope, a future array of philosophers, psychologists, social scientists, etc. who, like Talmont-Kaminski, have enormously interesting and illuminating work on religion to share without engaging in philosophy of religion. Boyer, Wilson, Atron, Jesse Bering, Daniel Wegner, Jonathan Haidt, Paul Bloom, and many such others might also make excellent interviewees.


lukeprog June 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Rob (another one),

Thanks. Listening through it again, this is definitely one of my favorite interviews.


dgsinclair June 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm

1. Naturalism begging the question

This is the accusation I was making in a previous comment on the Lofton interview (which you asked me about, Luke), and which I could not entirely explain. What I did write was:

The problem with John’s atheist conclusions, I think, is that he has presupposed naturalism, and therefore, limiting himself to empirical data while ingoring the healthy intuition, conscience, and ability to commune with the spiritual world, he has essentially eliminated the epistemic data he needs to make a complete evaluation.
So, he only listens to the naturalistic data, which gives him a big fat 0 with repsect to God’s existence, then concludes there is no God. I think that’s circular.

Konrad agreed that this is so, but affirmed that we MUST do this. I think this is quite a concession, but an honest one – you must, in a sense, presuppose naturalism.

You commented that faith does not ‘work,’ (which you must define) and empiricism does, so therefore, you just assume that this is the best foundation for knowledge.

Practically speaking, this may be a good idea, but the supernaturalist would claim that, while empiricism ‘works’ for some realms of knowledge, you can not therefore claim that it works for ALL types of knowledge.

Faith may be superior for the epistemology of values and meaning, morals, cosmology and origins, and the life to come.

The supernaturalist would also argue that they have a foundation from which to argue, and this is, in a way, a superior or stronger logical position. As your guest said, if you are a naturalist, you have to throw out foundationalism, which to some would seem an obvious weakness.

More comments later…


lukeprog June 23, 2010 at 3:02 pm


No. We do not presuppose naturalism. Our embrace of naturalism is “at the top of our pyramid of beliefs”, not at the bottom. We accept provisional naturalism a posteriori.

Could you demonstrate to me how faith is a good method for getting to truth? If you ask how science is a good method I point to men walking on the moon and diseases cured and bombs invented. But when I ask about faith I get nothing.

Faith is the lack of epistemic method.


Rich Griese June 23, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Recent online discussions by others about supernaturalism, and naturalism has inspired me to search for an example of explanations that I think are more clear, and more accurate. I am therefore making this audio file available for those interested in the topic;


In it, Richard Carrier takes 53 minutes and 27 seconds to explain both supernatural and natural clearly, with simple language

I welcome responses at;




Konrad Talmont-Kaminski June 24, 2010 at 2:10 am

Since I am currently writng the part of my book that discusses why scientists have to be naturalists I have put something in my blog that is relevant to the point raised by dgsinclair. The link is http://deisidaimon.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/scientific-presuppositions-and-the-supernatural/


lukeprog June 24, 2010 at 7:24 am

Thanks for the link, Konrad!


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