Determining supernatural
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15-03-2015, 10:36 AM
Determining supernatural
On one of our walks last week, my wife and I chatted about the news of the baby rescued from the car. Three claim to have heard a voice saying help me, or some other nonsense. Immediately, I started thinking critically about it, but that's not what's important.

I started to think about what would be considered supernatural. Yes, I know it's anything that defies the natural order of things, defies physics, etc.

But how would we know what was supernatural? If you were alive 60 years ago and someone claimed to know of things that could pop in and out of existence, you would say it's impossible and would be supernatural. Then we discover quantum mechanics. Now, it's possible and taken off the supernatural list. The double-slit experiment? Takes another odd, seemingly supernatural occurrence off the list. Unexplained phenomena are never put on the list, just left unexplained. Big Bang seems supernatural, but science explains it.

So, would/could there ever be something supernatural? I don't believe in anything supernatural, but would I ever believe it if it truly happened anyway? Would you? Would you be able to recognize it if it were supernatural?

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15-03-2015, 10:44 AM
RE: Determining supernatural
Stars aligning in the sky to write a comprehensible message in one or more of Earth's languages would suffice, I think.

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15-03-2015, 10:48 AM
RE: Determining supernatural
Right, and I'm most partuliarly proud of my one-time comeback to a theist on here who asked, "What would it take to convince you god was real?" To wit I replied, "God would know."

But, I'm not looking for examples. Remember, 60 years ago you would have said popping in and out of existence would suffice for you, too.

Is it possible there are supernatural things that have occurred that we just haven't accepted or explained? How would we know?

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15-03-2015, 11:05 AM
RE: Determining supernatural
The supernatural is not merely unexplained; it's unexplainable. In fact, as you said, it goes against the laws of nature. Decomposing bodies suddenly being restored and the people they used to be brought back to life, burning bushes that speak, humanoid beings with the ability to control lightning - these are all things that would simply not be explainable, and would go against the laws of nature. Things that we currently do not have an explanation for - but might one day - are not the same. That's just a "god of the gaps" fallacy. If the impossible had happened, it would be ridiculously improbable that we wouldn't notice it, and an explanation for it would be, in itself, impossible.

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15-03-2015, 11:15 AM
RE: Determining supernatural
What of the unexplained? How do you determine that it's possibly explained or unexplainable? You're finding simple examples. Are you saying there are unexplained phenomena that will always have an explanation we haven't discovered yet? When does unexplained get moved into unexplainable? Who makes that call and when? Is it rational thought? Ego? Science?

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15-03-2015, 11:27 AM
RE: Determining supernatural
(15-03-2015 11:15 AM)WillHopp Wrote:  What of the unexplained? How do you determine that it's possibly explained or unexplainable? You're finding simple examples. Are you saying there are unexplained phenomena that will always have an explanation we haven't discovered yet? When does unexplained get moved into unexplainable? Who makes that call and when? Is it rational thought? Ego? Science?

Due to the progressive nature of science, "unexplained" never gets moved into "unexplainable". And there's a good reason for it: every single claim of the supernatural has either been exposed as a lie, or explained through natural processes.
Here's a fun fact about the universe: the universe is natural. Everything that happens within it must follow certain laws. If anything happened that we would not be able to explain, no matter how long we tried, it wouldn't be supernatural. It'd be natural, but unexplained. The supernatural is then, by definition, impossible, because it doesn't follow the laws of the universe. If the impossible (supernatural) could occur, it would be possible (natural), wouldn't it? TL;DR version: supernatural claims are like solipsism: self-defeating.

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15-03-2015, 11:36 AM
RE: Determining supernatural
I agree, but you've ignored my quantum mechanics point with your explanation. Particles jumping in and out of existence would easily be seen as supernatural before we discovered it. If we hadn't discovered it, we'd still say it was impossible. How are you determining what is impossible?

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15-03-2015, 11:45 AM (This post was last modified: 15-03-2015 01:04 PM by One Above All.)
RE: Determining supernatural
(15-03-2015 11:36 AM)WillHopp Wrote:  I agree, but you've ignored my quantum mechanics point with your explanation. Particles jumping in and out of existence would easily be seen as supernatural before we discovered it. If we hadn't discovered it, we'd still say it was impossible. How are you determining what is impossible?

Only the possible can occur. The impossible, by definition, cannot.
Here's another fun fact: if something is detectable, it means it occurred. If it occurred, it means it's natural (see previous post). If it's undetectable with our current means of detection, it means it's irrelevant. If it's wholly undetectable, it doesn't exist (everything that interacts leaves behind evidence of that interaction - this goes beyond science; it's a fundamental principle of logic). In other words, if supernatural claims are detectable, they're false (or rather, their claimed supernatural status is false). If they're currently undetectable, they're irrelevant. If they're wholly undetectable, they're wholly false.
EDIT: The problem here is one of definitions. The supernatural can be redefined in such a manner that makes it indistinguishable from the natural - which makes it irrelevant - it can be redefined in a manner that makes it ambiguous - which, again, makes it irrelevant - or it can be redefined in a manner that makes it impossible - which, yet again, makes it irrelevant (non-existent, in fact). The supernatural simply cannot win.

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15-03-2015, 12:16 PM
RE: Determining supernatural
(15-03-2015 11:27 AM)One Above All Wrote:  Here's a fun fact about the universe: the universe is natural. Everything that happens within it must follow certain laws.

Hmm, where do you fit random events? Are there no random events? Are they not really random but following undiscovered natural laws? Or is it our overpowering need to establish patterns that excludes the random?

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15-03-2015, 12:24 PM
RE: Determining supernatural
Again, you would have said quantum mechanics is impossible. A lot of what is possible today would have been thought impossible one time. I'm not using any god of the gaps fallacy here. I'm not saying we don't know therefore gawd. What I'm saying is, we as a society have thought things were impossible only to later find out they were possible. So, how do we know the things we haven't explained aren't unexplainable but obviously not impossible and then supernatural?

Certainly dark energy and dark matter were laughed at as hypothesis back in the day, and certainly were undetectable. But now we are going to tackle that with the LHC this year. Same with the certain waves we can see with our eyes. There was a time when everyone thought you could only believe what you can see. But now we know there is a spectrum the human eye can't see. Invisible light would be impossible a hundred years ago. It's not anymore. When we discover something we didn't know was possible, it goes into the natural column. Quantum mechanics would be in the supernatural column today had we not discovered it.

Would there ever be an unexplainable phenomenon that belongs in supernatural, and who would make that call in science?

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