Archive for November 2nd, 2010

November 2, 2010

On the supernatural

by Neil Rickert

There has been some recent speculative discussion on the blogosphere, as to the supernatural, and whether there could ever be evidence for it.  Since it is relevant to my posts on epistemology, I thought that I would add my two cents.

First some links.  Chris Schoen has posted Is “Dark Matter” Supernatural? Sean Carrol has further commented, with Is Dark Matter Supernatural? And now Jerry Coyne has commented on that, with Sean Carroll on the “supernatural”.

When considering possible effects of the supernatural, Sean Carrol lists three possibilities, which Jerry Coyne repeats:

  1. The silent: things that have absolutely no effect on anything that happens in the world.
  2. The hidden: things that affect the world only indirectly, without being immediately observable themselves.
  3. The lawless: things that affect the world in ways that are observable (directly or otherwise), but not subject to the regularities of natural law.

In the case of the first of these, there would be no evidence and thus no evidence of the supernatural.  In the case of the second, there would be evidence but it is evidence that science could investigate.  Thus it would not be considered evidence of the supernatural.  Incidentally, the dark matter mentioned in the links would fit with the second case.

It is only with the third case, direct violations of laws, that the authors see a possibility that there could be evidence of the supernatural.  I want to question that.

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