The Science of the Supernatural

If Darwinism fails then supernatural causes are back on the table and should be included in science.

I do not think there can be a science of the supernatural.

I do not think that if Darwinism fails that supernatural causes will become acceptable.

If the hope of ID is that supernatural causes will be allowed back into science if they can only just get rid of Darwinism, ID is doomed.

The tools and methods of ID cannot differentiate a supernatural cause from a natural cause anyways.

Thoughts?

1,433 thoughts on “The Science of the Supernatural

  1. 1. Do you mean “Darwinism” or all of physical science (when used by ID apologists, the former is at best a caricature and at worst mindless abuse)
    2. If miracles are possible, reliable science is impossible, including everything from physics to sociology
    3. If miracles are possible, ID will be just as much in the dark as the filthy materialists (pretty much what you said)

  2. The difference between natural and supernatural is that you can measure the natural part. If you can’t measure the supernatural, then you can’t use science. If you can measure it, then it’s not supernatural.

  3. I wonder if the phrase “supernatural causes” is an oxymoron. Science attempts to assign effects to causes as accurately as possible. If the effects cannot be attributable to causes (rendering science useless), then “supernatural” can’t be a cause, only a codeword indicating failure to understand (and possibly unwillingness to understand).

    I also wonder if a false dichotomy is being presented here. “Darwinism” (as used by creationists) is one proposed explanation for a large set of related observations. Other explanations have been proposed in the past, which were certainly not supernatural, and which didn’t stand up to detailed examination. Which doesn’t rule out some future non-“Darwinian” explanation which may prove superior, and still not be supernatural (whatever that means).

  4. Supernatural causes can be inferred as the ultimate cause.

    But that is not required for ID to be science. All that is required is to show that a detectable cause exists that is responsible for life; i.e. a mathematical basis.

    We recognize gravity must exist as a cause due mathematical calculations, not because we can touch, smell, hear, taste or see gravity.

    Likewise, we can conclude that intelligence must exist as a cause because of mathematical calculations, not because we can detect intelligent homunculi running around cell cities.

    So discovering a mathematical basis as the core driving force behind life is definitely on the table as a scientific endeavor.

  5. Steve:
    Supernatural causes can be inferred as the ultimate cause.

    What specific inferences can be drawn about the character of these causes? Do pink unicorns feature in the mathematics?

    But that is not required for ID to be science.All that is required is to show that a detectable cause exists that is responsible for life; i.e. a mathematical basis.

    Has Intelligent Design detected such a cause? If so, what is its character, or is your hypothetical just a form of the wish being parent to the thought?

    We recognize gravity must exist as a cause due mathematical calculations, not because we can touch, smell, hear, taste or see gravity.

    Actually we have touched gravity. Are you unaware of the LIGO and GEO600 results?

    Likewise, we can conclude that intelligence must exist as a cause because of mathematical calculations, not because we can detect intelligent homunculi running around cell cities.

    Do you believe those are the only two possibilities. Given that there are no useful models of intelligence that have been developed from either of your alternatives, may I gently suggest that you are indulging in a false dichotomy based on zero evidence.

    So discovering a mathematical basis as the core driving force behind life is definitely on the table as a scientific endeavor.

    It will be on the table IFF there is a credible mathematical model of the process, backed up with physical evidence. Until then, you seem to be indulging in speculative armwaving. The mathematical map is not the physical terrain. Reifying abstractions is a first-order mistake in all physical sciences.

  6. Scientific theories don’t just ‘fail’, they may get replaced with better ones and are therefore discarded.

    For Darinism to fail, therefore, there will already be a better theory on the table. The Supernatural will, once more, be looking in from the sidelines.

  7. I think a big part of the disagreement here is simply in our definitions.

    Atheists just have a radically different understanding of things like miracle and supernatural than conservative Christians do.

    Atheists think of miracle as something that violates natural law and supernatural as something that is not subject to natural law.

    On the other hand the God of the Bible would never violate his own law. That is the very reason that Christ had to die in order to grant forgiveness to guilty sinners.

    For folks like me a miracle is just a very improbable event with redemptive historical implications and supernatural is simply anything that can’t be reduced to the natural.

    There is no reason either of these things can’t be studied scientifically in my opinion.
    peace

  8. The tools and methods of ID cannot differentiate a supernatural cause from a natural cause anyways.

    What does this mean? What is a “natural” cause?

  9. fifthmonarchyman: Atheists just have a radically different understanding of things like miracle and supernatural than conservative Christians do.

    How about liberal Christians?

  10. newton: How about liberal Christians?

    I can’t really speak for them. They are in a different club 😉

    I would expect a mixture of the two views and lots or disdain and disgust for the unwashed fundies

    peace

  11. Dr. Sam Parnia isn’t doing science?

    Dr. Dean Radin isn’t doing science?

    Dr. Jim Tucker isn’t doing science?

    Carol Bowman isn’t doing science?

    Dr. Ian Stevenson isn’t doing science?

    Dr. Roger Woolger not a scientist.

    Dr. Bruce Greyson not a scientist surprisingly.

    Dr. Edward Kelly, not doing science!

    Dr. Emily Williams, not doing science!

    Dr. Kim Penberthy, not doing science apparently!

    Narendra Katkar, nope.

    Dr. Montague Ullman and Dr. Stanley Krippner, Can’t help you.

    Dr. Charles T. Tart , yep, gotta ask you to give back your doctorate.

    Dr. Robert Morris, just because you are a Director, that doesn’t mean you are doing science.

    Dr. Russell Targ and Dr. Harold Puthoff, whatever work you were doing, it wasn’t science.

    Dr. Julia Mossbridge, you are not a scientist. I know. Tell Northwestern.

    ……why?

    Well, because Mung says so. I hear ya, I hear ya..sorry.

  12. From the OP:

    If Darwinism fails then supernatural causes are back on the table and should be included in science.

    If we accept the wikipedia definition of Darwinism, in that:

    all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.

    then it has already failed in this regard. Are there many people these days who think that all species arise in this way?

    I do not think that it should be any part of the scientific endeavour to look for supernatural causes to explain evolution.

    I do not think there can be a science of the supernatural.

    It may not be possible to have a science of the supernatural but it is possible to have a science of the supersensible as Goethe demonstrated with his gentle empiricism.

    I do not think that if Darwinism fails that supernatural causes will become acceptable.

    Darwinism hasn’t failed as such. But it has been found to be fairly limited in that it does not have the creative power to produce the diversity of life that we observe. Neither natural nor artificial selection has this power.

    If the hope of ID is that supernatural causes will be allowed back into science if they can only just get rid of Darwinism, ID is doomed.

    True.

    The tools and methods of ID cannot differentiate a supernatural cause from a natural cause anyways.

    I think that cause and effect are terms brought over to biology from physics and they aren’t the best concepts to consider when dealing with life and living organisms. You just have to look at the regulatory networks being brought to light to realise the fruitlessness of trying to unravel cause and effect in these systems.

    It is hard enough for researchers to determine natural causes without adding the further complication of speculations about some supernatural cause. So for ID to be successful it would have to leave the supernatural well out of it.

  13. phoodoo: Well, because Mung says so. I hear ya, I hear ya..sorry.

    What are all of those people supposedly working on? Are they emptying their test tubes of air to try and leave only the supernatural stuff? How do they test if there’s anything left there and that such thing is supernatural? What do they test once they’re convinced that they’re working with supernatural stuff? Why aren’t we all convinced by their work about the supernatural? Why aren’t we informed yet about the nature of the supernatural?

  14. Entropy: Why aren’t we all convinced by their work about the supernatural?

    According to Timothy, if all the stars aligned to spell out “I Am God” he still might not be convinced.

    So no big surprise there.

    Why aren’t we all convinced about Darwinism?

  15. phoodoo:
    According to Timothy, if all the stars aligned to spell out “I Am God” he still might not be convinced.

    Well, since you haven’t told me how those people manage to do scientific work on the supernatural, I cannot know if their work would convince me. So, what do they do? how do they manage to do scientific work on the supernatural?

    phoodoo:
    Why aren’t we all convinced about Darwinism?

    What’s Darwinism?

  16. Steve: We recognize gravity must exist as a cause due mathematical calculations, not because we can touch, smell, hear, taste or see gravity.

    This is nonsense. We recognize gravity, because things fall down in a reasonably consistent way. Mathematics has nothing to do with that.

    So discovering a mathematical basis as the core driving force behind life is definitely on the table as a scientific endeavor.

    This makes no sense at all. Mathematics might be what drives mathematicians. But it could not be a driving force behind life. Mathematics is a human invention. Life existed long before the invention of mathematics.

  17. fifthmonarchyman: Atheists just have a radically different understanding of things like miracle and supernatural than conservative Christians do.

    Atheists think of miracle as something that violates natural law and supernatural as something that is not subject to natural law.

    Maybe it is just that different people think in different ways. There’s no need to ascribe a particular way of thinking to the entire class of atheists, or to the entire class of conservative Christians.

  18. I don’t see any reason why there couldn’t be a science of the supernatural. Doing so would involve changing the meaning of the terms ‘science” and “supernatural”. But there’s no a priori reason why that couldn’t happen.

  19. Neil Rickert: Maybe it is just that different people think in different ways. There’s no need to ascribe a particular way of thinking to the entire class of atheists, or to the entire class of conservative Christians.

    But without the tribalistic us vs them mentality where would we be?

  20. Neil Rickert: Maybe it is just that different people think in different ways.

    Perhaps,

    I’ve just never encountered a conservative Christian who thinks that God would violate his own laws or an atheist who thinks that the supernatural is not something akin to ghosts and fairies.

    It just seems that these two groups tend to talk past each other more than most.

    peace

  21. Quote:
    It is therefore inaccurate to define a miracle as something that breaks the laws of Nature. It doesn’t. If I knock out my pipe I alter the position of a great many atoms: in the long run, and to an infinitesimal degree, of all the atoms there are. Nature digests or assimilates this event with perfect ease and harmonises it in a twinkling with all other events. It is one more bit of raw material for the laws to apply to, and they apply. I have simply thrown one event into the general cataract of events and it finds itself at home there and conforms to all other events. If God annihilates or creates or deflects a unit of matter He has created a new situation at that point. Immediately all Nature domiciles this new situation, makes it at home in her realm, adapts all other events to it. It finds itself conforming to all the laws. If God creates a miraculous spermatozoon in the body of a virgin, it does not proceed to break any laws. The laws at once take it over. Nature is ready. Pregnancy follows, according to all the normal laws, and nine months later a child is born. We see every day that physical nature is not in the least incommoded by the daily inrush of events from biological nature or from psychological nature. If events ever come from beyond Nature altogether, she will be no more incommoded by them. Be sure she will rush to the point where she is invaded, as the defensive forces rush to a cut in our finger, and there hasten to accommodate the newcomer. The moment it enters her realm it obeys all her laws. Miraculous wine will intoxicate, miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread will be digested. The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern. It does not violate the law’s proviso, ‘If A, then B’: it says, ‘But this time instead of A, A2,’ and Nature, speaking through all her laws, replies ‘Then B2’ and naturalises the immigrant, as she well knows how. She is an accomplished hostess.

    :end quote

    CS Lewis

    peace

  22. Currently conducting tests on both finding a penny and rabbits feet.

    Will report findings in due time.

  23. BruceS: Depends what you mean by ‘Darwinism’. What do you mean by that word?

    Good question.

    phoodoo: As far as I am concerned, Darwinism only exists as the last holdout against a supernatural explanation.

    I’m going to ask phoodoo to answer it.

  24. timothya: 2. If miracles are possible, reliable science is impossible, including everything from physics to sociology

    If miracles are possible, it does not logically follow that reliable science is not possible.

    So could you share your reasoning with us?

  25. Acartia: The difference between natural and supernatural is that you can measure the natural part. If you can’t measure the supernatural, then you can’t use science. If you can measure it, then it’s not supernatural.

    The measurable aspects of the supernatural are amenable to scientific exploration, so a science of the supernatural is possible. I had not though of that. Thank you.

    You realize, I hope, that your reasoning is also a non-sequitur. It does not logically follow that if you can measure it then it is not supernatural. Rather, it means that you actually can measure the supernatural.

  26. Flint: Science attempts to assign effects to causes as accurately as possible.

    I think you have that backwards. Science observes effects and attempts to assign causes to those effects. Or perhaps that is what you were trying to say?

  27. walto: Currently conducting tests on both finding a penny and rabbits feet.

    This is the typical atheist attitude I was just talking about. This equivocation of supernatural and superstition is completely foreign to me.

    Belief is lucky rabbits feet isn’t silly because it’s supernatural it’s silly because it’s fallacious

    peace

  28. Entropy: Why aren’t we informed yet about the nature of the supernatural?

    If the supernatural had a nature it would be natural.

  29. Neil Rickert: Mathematics is a human invention. Life existed long before the invention of mathematics.

    Galileo invented the thought that mathematics is the language of god.

    My thought is that much of god’s thinking is irrational.

  30. fifthmonarchyman: It just seems that these two groups tend to talk past each other more than most.

    One of these days we need to have a discussion here at TSZ about what makes a “natural law” a law and why “natural laws” cannot be violated.

    Are they descriptive or prescriptive. I think ti’s amusing that most of the non-ID crowd here seem to think natural laws are the latter, as if they came forth from an unchanging God whose word stands forever and cannot be changed. IOW, they sound like theists. 🙂

  31. Kantian Naturalist: I don’t see any reason why there couldn’t be a science of the supernatural. Doing so would involve changing the meaning of the terms ‘science” and “supernatural”. But there’s no a priori reason why that couldn’t happen.

    Interesting. I hope you’ll share more when you find the time and inclination.

    You seem to treat “science” and “supernatural” as mere labels and to think that we don’t really know and perhaps cannot know whether what we are studying with our science is supernatural or not.

  32. Kantian Naturalist:
    I don’t see any reason why there couldn’t be a science of the supernatural. Doing so would involve changing the meaning of the terms ‘science” and “supernatural”. But there’s no a priori reason why that couldn’t happen.

    Even if you have your tongue in your cheek, I think there is still something serious in that thought.

    Chalmers and the IIT folk want to add consciousness to fundamental physics. EM drive folk want to add… well that is still TBD. OTOH, Einstein wanted to remove the supernaturalism from QM (“spooky” action at a distance).

    The trick is how we add what current science would call supernatural.

    Scientists say by doing science.

    ID folks say by politics and mathematical diktat.

  33. faded_Glory:

    For Darinism to fail, therefore, there will already be a better theory on the table. The Supernatural will, once more, be looking in from the sidelines.

    But will scientists who believed in that old theory be on those sidelines?

    How seriously should we take Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

  34. fifthmonarchyman: This is the typical atheist attitude I was just talking about. This equivocation of supernatural and superstition is completely foreign to me.

    It shouldn’t be foreign to you. Superstitions like those being true would be a subset of the supernatural.

  35. CharlieM: It is hard enough for researchers to determine natural causes without adding the further complication of speculations about some supernatural cause. So for ID to be successful it would have to leave the supernatural well out of it.

    Right.

  36. Kantian Naturalist:
    I don’t see any reason why there couldn’t be a science of the supernatural. Doing so would involve changing the meaning of the terms ‘science” and “supernatural”. But there’s no a priori reason why that couldn’t happen.

    Well, sure, if “science” means plumbing and “supernatural” means toilets, then there absolutely could be a science of the supernatural.

  37. Mung: If the supernatural had a nature it would be natural.

    No–you’re equivocating there. To be natural it’s nature would have to be natural. That is, voodoo has a nature, but it remains supernatural. “Having a nature” means having an essence.

  38. walto: I don’t see any reason why there couldn’t be a science of the supernatural. Doing so would involve changing the meaning of the terms ‘science” and “supernatural”. But there’s no a priori reason why that couldn’t happen.

    Well, sure, if “science” means plumbing and “supernatural” means toilets, then there absolutely could be a science of the supernatural.

    OTOH, I guess there could be a science of thought even if thought were, in some sense, not “natural.” I’m not sure whether the “science” ought to be allowed to be non-empirical, however. It’s all a bit of an enigma sandwich.

  39. Entropy: That’s the point.

    If the supernatural has no nature then it is undefinable, as it is the nature of a thing that defines what it is.

  40. You do science of thought the same way you do science of anything. By building models and simulations.

    If it takes 400 years, well, we still haven’t cracked gravity completely.

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