Coherent definition of observable supernatural event?

  • #1
nomadreid
Gold Member
1,482
150
I do not want to get into a religious discussion. The question is an abstract one, not directed at any belief system. With that prologue: is it theoretically possible to give a rigorous and coherent definition of "supernatural" that would allow an observable event to be supernatural, independent of humans' knowledge of physical laws? That is, if one defines the set of supernatural events as either distinct from, or a superset of, the set of natural events, then this begs the question, as one now needs a definition of natural events. (The question as to whether the set of supernatural events is the empty set or not is not the question here: one first needs a definition of supernatural before one could pose that question.) If one defines natural as all that is observable (not necessarily by humans: in the same way that the laws of relativity are posed in terms of observers, or quantum physics uses observables....) I wish to exclude the trivial definition that, for example, allows lightning to be supernatural to ancient Greeks but not to Benjamin Franklin, etc. , so the final definition need not allow humans at any point to be able to distinguish a natural from a supernatural event.
 
  • Like
Likes CWatters

Answers and Replies

  • #2
14,413
11,726
I claim, that the answer is NO, simply because
independent of humans' knowledge of physical laws
cannot be quantified in any meaningful way, since it makes a statement about future knowledge as well. If we restrict the condition to current knowledge, we will be back again in what is our current situation. There are many natural phenomena which we cannot fully explain yet: sprites, the walking stones, Min Mins, etc. but that doesn't make them supernatural.

Another argument: Assumed it could be done, then you will have a tool to decide the existence of God, if defined appropriately. But such a proof cannot be given. I'm not sure whether it can formally be shown to be undecidable, but the many attempts throughout history by often very smart people, is at least enough evidence for me, that it is impossible.
 
  • Like
Likes nomadreid
  • #3
DrClaude
Mentor
7,554
3,894
I do not want to get into a religious discussion.
Never mind religion, this is philosophy, and beyond the scope of PhysicsForums.

For more info, you can check out https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Supernatural#Can_science_test_the_supernatural.3F. I like this quote by Elbert Hubbard:
To the scientist the word "supernatural" is a contradiction. Everything that is in the universe is natural; the supernatural is the natural not yet understood. And that which is called the supernatural is often the figment of a disordered, undisciplined or undeveloped imagination.
Thread closed.
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre, gmax137, Bystander and 1 other person

Related Threads on Coherent definition of observable supernatural event?

Replies
25
Views
388
Replies
56
Views
38K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
27
Views
15K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
3K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
30
Views
14K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
47
Views
14K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
3K
Replies
12
Views
2K
Top