For example, your acceptance of empiricism "in principle" follows an initial outright rejection of empiricism "in principle". For if there weren't an initial rejection of empiricism, consider that you would have no basis in the first place for the [prior] belief that "everything that seems supernatural is actually conforming to natural laws - albeit laws of which we are currently ignorant, or which are only operative under certain conditions".
You miss the point. William's acceptance of the Gospel does not in any necessary way preclude his acceptance of empirical phenomena and scientific explanation of them. What he said was that the "leap to absolute naturalism" precludes the secularist from the exploration of any other forms or channels of knowledge acquisition. Accepting the Gospel logically requires no overarching rejection of the empirical, nor does taking the empirical seriously imply some in toto rejection of "supernatural" phenomena. There is a semantic question here as well. There is nothing in LDS claiming that the Gospel and the powers of the Priesthood operate upon "natural principles" that obviates its "supernatural" (I rather prefer "metanatural") character or the existence of "natural principles" in the purely empirical, mortal realm. Indeed, LDS theology makes no distinction between "natural principles" and any set of principles that would be unnatural, or counter-natural, as counter-natural principles, by definition, could not exist. It does make distinctions between the natural principles operating at different planes, or levels of existence, but not between natural principles and any principles that could be understood to be in contradiction to these.
Your use of both empirical and supposedly reliable occult epistemologies, at different times, or even concurrently with respectively different and changing weightings, raises several important questions. One is, what base criterion determines which epistemology is used in what circumstances,
for what specific tasks, etc.?
If one desires to know whether Joseph was a real prophet, whether her really saw the Father and the Son or whether Moroni really delivered gold plates to him, the "occult" channel of knowledge acquisition is the only viable channel open.
I suggest that the base criterion is not the discovery of truth, but the maintenance of Mormon belief, or to be more specific, the maintenance of a particularly pleasing psychological state.
This could, in principle, be the case. It may also just as plausibly, irrespective of whether the Church is true or not, that this represents little more than precisely the nature of your own epistemological and metaphysical beliefs, including those regarding the Church.
If true, it means that both empirical and occult epistemology have been gutted, without us as believers really noticing, of whatever epistemic potential they may have had, and now exist only to serve as props for that particular psychological state.
And how might positivist, empirical science save us from this unhappy state of affairs?
And this, I suggest, should be a big warning flag to all sincere believers. It is strong evidence that what we have cherished as deriving from other-wordly sources, in fact is more attributable to very common psychological operations, most notably, plain old confirmation bias.
Does anyone but me here see the circularity of this entire exercise? If everything in the universe not amenable to observation or experiment, and empirical confirmation by independent observers, can be explained as nothing more than "confirmation bias", then this implies that not a single thought, feeling, emotion, or perception we, as human beings have ever had, need be considered 'real" even to ourselves
. Our stated feelings toward our wives and children can never be known to be authentic because our inner lives, whatever the behavioral manifestations of them (and these can always be explained in utilitarian or pragmatist terms, just ask Kimberlyann or Moniker) are forever and utterly unavailable for empirical study or confirmation. It has also already been pointed out that most of the axioms upon which science and its language, mathematics, are predicated, are not verifiable or falsifiable through empirical means, even though science and mathematics would be impossible without them (and this opens a new Pandora's Box in its own right).
Further, as the Uncertainty Principle makes clear, human uncertainty, even about the fundamental nature of empirical reality, extends to the very core of that reality itself. The quantum world is not a world you can put in a jar and say "see, its behaving in such and such a manner." What is the empirical universe in any case? Mostly empty space; a vast ocean of probability waves, emergent properties, and particles that seem to respond to observation of them.
Tal, like his heroes Sagan and Dawkins, is not really defending science so much as a personal philosophy which, in a broad epistemological and metaphysical way, uses science as a universal proof text.
(Hinckely could not have been more explicit). Methodologies which we believed would help us discover truth end up being conscripted into the more emotionally-crucial task of remaining convinced that we've already found it.
Secularists, to be brutally honest, really should admit they have no real concern with "truth". Truth, in relative, accidental, randomly generated universe of which we are a part, is important to our advanced simian brains only because they have evolved, again by vast fortuitous accident, to appreciate them. When we are gone, the argument we are having here will have been no more meaningful then whether or not we all blow ourselves up in a global thermonuclear war or don't'. It really doesn't matter because the universe itself doesn't matter. It just is
and we all just happen to be
Tal is arguing against the Church ultimately, because he is, in some manner, threatened by it, not because of some noble quest for that which he calls 'truth". If we were facing the red giant phase of our sun's lifespan, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. When we die, consciousness ends. Existence is extinguished. When our planet dies, this phenomena is no more important
, within the context of the universe, than if one ant dies in one ant hill or in another.