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Re: none
Fri Feb 5, 2010 12:19


‘Supernatural’ as a Meaningless Concept .

The idea of ‘Supernatural’ involves a belief in events that have no grounding nor origin in ‘Nature’ (i.e. the physical universe). The term implies that another ‘realm of being’ exists apart from the universe that is the domain of God(s), spirits, demons, etc. and is also the source of events commonly referred to as ‘miracles.’ I will attempt to demonstrate that this concept provides no useful information in explaining or understanding our phenomenal experiences, and hence is a meaningless construct.

Supernatural propositions typically focus on two primary constructs: the domain of God(s), spirits, angles, demons, ghosts, etc. and, the source of events emanating from that domain, commonly referred to as ’miracles.’ It is usually described as ‘outside’ the physical dimensions of spacetime and is therefore not subject to the laws of physics as they are currently understood.

The primary argument proposed here is that supernatural explanations or interpretations for events (miracles) so considered are fundamentally indeterminable and therefore resist attempts to substantiate their existence; as such they provide no meaningful information with which one can more fully comprehend the universe and our place in it. I wish to minimize also the magnitudes of any ‘leaps of faith‘ (and any position requires some form of leap) that are necessary within one‘s world view. In my opinion the distance required for any leap is inversely proportional to the likelihood of any given proposition‘s truth value. I believe any other position generates diminished logical soundness. Additionally, I wish to include the consideration of Occam‘s Razor, whereby constructs must not be included beyond what is necessity.

Through a process referred to as ‘Cartesian Doubt’ Descartes questioned the reality of his phenomenological perceptions. Perceiving himself sitting in his study before a fireplace, he questioned whether those perceptions were true and real, or whether they might actually be the work of a demon or in more modern parlance, an alien, planting percepts that have no truth in reality. He deduced that there was no way to evaluate the truth value of these percepts in a non-arbitrary fashion.

If the concept of supernatural is to provide any foundation of sound and meaningful interpretations of reality, it must be subject to an analysis that unequivocally leads towards a more truthful understanding thereof. The real defining question is ‘what means do human beings possess which demonstrate, beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt, that any given event requires the employment of the term ‘supernatural‘ for explanation? How is it that one can argue some given event did not, in actuality, originate in the ‘natural’ universe by means of a natural origin? This might seem on the surface to be easy to answer definitively. For example, if an event is completely outside of an individual‘s experience or that individual‘s exposure to anyone else‘s reported experience, that person may then wish to apply the supernatural construct to the explanation of that event. Another example might be a claim from a seeming apparition in such an event that claims to be of a supernatural origin. A third example might be a claim made, either from another individual or an important text that some spectacular (i.e. supernatural) event took place at another time and place that bears the hallmark of ‘supernatural.’ An example of this would be the claim made in the Bible of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead after three days.

What are we to make of these claims? How could one prove beyond any reasonable doubt that examples like those given above demonstrate a truth that yields to meaningful inspection?’ I would say that in the same fashion that theists (or deists for that matter) refute an atheist’s claim that God does not exist by reminding the atheist that they cannot be at all places at all times, one can apply this argument to claims of supernatural events. Since the supernatural claimant also cannot be at all places at all times, what he/she claims as supernatural might well be explained as completely natural at another time or in another place. This very argument has been played out through history where in an earlier time something that was first labeled ‘supernatural’ (e.g. the sun moving across the sky) was later revealed to be completely natural. In this case, Occam’s razor would suggest a simpler interpretation, rejecting supernatural events an unnecessary construct in the interpretation of reality. As far as sacred texts are concerned, the seemingly arbitrary acceptance of a claim for supernatural events requires a ‘larger leap of faith’ due to the inability of the reader to verify, empirically, the truth value of these claims, all else being equal.

In closing, the greater leap of faith, the introduction of unnecessary constructs, the lack of meaningful information in the interpretation of reality and the premature conclusion of supernaturality to an unfamiliar and ‘numinous’ experience renders the term ‘supernatural’ unnecessary at worst misleading in the comprehension of reality.


  • Re: none ~ Anonymous, Fri Feb 5 12:19
    > > ‘Supernatural’ as a Meaningless Concept . The idea of ‘Supernatural’ involves a belief in events that have no grounding nor origin in ‘Nature’ (i.e. the physical universe). . The term implies... more
    • Re: none ~ test, Fri Feb 5 12:19
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