There’s an oft used argument by the religious that science deals with the natural world and religion the supernatural. I’d like to question several assertions and assumptions in that idea.
To begin with I’m not entirely sure what ‘supernatural’ is supposed to mean. Religous and paranormal enthusiasts typically equate it with anything they’re interested in that science doesn’t look favourably on: gods, ghosts, weird monsters, etc. But lets look at what the word actually means.
Super-natural, above nature, with the necessary implication that this is something acting on a level beyond nature. But what does that mean? Anything and everything we can detect, measure, and interact with, clearly falls into the category of nature. So this definition of supernatural would imply such things that are beyond nature, with the necessary implication that they cannot interact with ‘natural’ things. Therefore, anything supernatural would not only be undetectable to us, but would not be able to influence us in any way. We would quite literally exist side-by-side without knowing each other exist.
Related to the above definition is the implication that things that are ‘supernatural’ operate under a different set of laws from ‘natural’ things. Again, this would imply the two cannot interact. At All. As they would operate with different laws of physics.
What’s particularly intersting, however, is that the above definitions do not actually exclude the methodology of science from studying them. The scientific method would work just fine to understand them. The limiting factor is that we cannot detect each other due to existing with a completely different set of physical laws. This, of course, means that such a god could not, in any way, interact with our universe other than, possibly, at it’s creation (i.e. such a being could have created our universe, our particular ‘nature’, but would have lost the ability to interact in any way once the laws of physics diverged from Its own universe).
So, as the above definitions don’t really help the cause of any god that believers follow on Earth, I can only assume most such people are using a different definition of supernatural. The only other one I can come up with is ‘not existing in nature’, which doesn’t really help their cause any further either, since God is everywhere and (many believe) everything, He/She could be viewed as the embodiment of nature. But lets give a huge benefit of the doubt here and say that nature is only rocks and trees, streams, and bees, and fuzzy creatures running around (Garden of Eden stuff). Even if this is the case, then their assertion still wildly fails, as science has dealt with and has been responsible for creating things far outside nature: modern houses, skyscrapers, cars, metallurgy, computers, space ships, windows, etc.
So I’m really a bit stumped on what supernatural is supposed to mean. I’m quite interested in further discussion of the last definition. And specifically, I’d like to hear your opinion. If ‘supernatural’ simply means extra-natural (i.e. beyond biology), then…
Is technology supernatural?
Post in the comments below.