Tag: Supernatural

Evidence and God

Lots of people ask for “evidence” that a creator exists.  “If a creator exists, why didn’t he leave evidence?”, one says.

But to ask for evidence in the form of an anomaly is to ask that the creator provides evidence for himself by creating something that contradicts the truth of what has actually been created.  It seems that such a person requires two contradictory truths in order to verify that a creator exists—for example, a reality that operates in a way that implies that a lifeless statue of the virgin Mary would not emit tears, juxtaposed to said statue having tears.  Or a world with physics that would be violated by a great booming voice coming from the heavens, vis a vis said voice manifesting.  Or the abstract idealization of a human form, divorced from the physical truth of what engenders a human form, and presented in some way thus contradictory to the truth of being a human, such as an angel in the form of a flying translucent human with wings, or a bright shining Jesus descending from the sky.

In any case, any asking for an anomaly to evidence a creator is asking for a hierarchy of truths, in order of ubiquity, in which one of these truths contradicts another one of these truths, or is at least asking for a cogent system of truth (such as natural process) followed by an unaccountable fact, particularly a fact in the form of a synthesis of two or more human abstracts, manifested physically, that is a strikingly unnatural or irrational synthesis; for example: “ceaseless” + ”burning” + ”a bush”; ”a voice” + ”having no source”; “a person rises” + ”he’d been dead for three days”; or “a statue” (i.e. “a human” + “artificial”) + “weeping.” I’m highlighting the fact these concepts are ultimately syntheses of human abstractions because they’re unrealistic, and unrealistic things can only be human abstractions.

Perhaps for some, the only thing inspiring or mysterious enough to suggest a creator is the irrational. That’s not to suggest that everything else in reality is rationally explainable—I would disagree with such a worldview—but that evidence of a creator must contradict reason. If everything that already exists is already evidence of God, then I don’t see that a creator would have an obligation to—nor a natural tendency to—leave further evidence that contradicts this evidence. That of course leaves open the question of whether everything that exists is evidence, but just as there is no reason to assume that it is evidence, there is no reason to assume that it is not evidence.

Perhaps those who would require the irrational as evidence of God are simply looking for something new.  We have a tendency of “taking for granted” anything we are very familiar with. We don’t have to remotely understand it, it may even be a wonderful thing, but as long as we have familiarity with it, it’s just “a part of reality,” or even when it’s new, it’s just a part of reality in that it doesn’t blatantly contradict something else in reality, so regardless of the mystery or the glory of many arguably sublime things, such as, say, love, it’s not evidence of a creator because it’s just a part of life. Admittedly, the issue of the implicatory relationships between the concept of a creator and the concept of—for example—love is analytically endless, but a concept of a creator that requires evidence that contradicts natural law is a wrong characterization of God, and it’s hard to imagine what could exist in real life that is a more potent indicator than some of the things that already exists that is not contradictory to natural law.

Any evidence for Christian creationism would contradict natural law.

Some examples of potent indicators of a creator in normal life include existence, life/consciousness, love, compassion, laughter, joy, happiness, art, creativity, peace, order, psi, rainbows, and the general beauty of nature. (I am not saying these examples do necessarily prove the existence of God or a creator, but that that they’re the most potent possible indicators that could exist outside of that which would contradict natural law, and they actually do exist.)

Some things that, if actually deeply and properly understood, would necessarily entail or lead one to more awareness of the spiritual and metaphysical (including God) are these: art; aesthetics; the beauty of the human form and other animals; body language; what makes us laugh; personalities; quantum randomness; and words/language. (The mechanics of how words come into being and become popular, i.e. memetics, operate over the full spectrum of consciousness and awareness, including that which is only subconsciously realized, and that extends well beyond the consciously acknowledged and even the rational. I wrote more about this here: https://philosophy.inhahe.com/2017/02/16/on-the-meanings-of-words/)

Attempts to fully explain any the above things without appealing to anything spiritual are attempts to “explain them away,” as such. “How gibbering man becomes, when he is really clever, and thinks he is giving the ultimate and final description of the universe!  Can’t he see that he is merely describing himself, and that the self he is describing is merely one of the more dead and dreary states that man can exist in?” -D. H. Lawrence.

Conclusion: In this particular case—the case of the existence of God—the lack of evidence (or supposed lack of evidence) is not evidence of lack.

All of the above is just an idea I had that I’m sharing for what it’s worth, though. To be fair, if material reality is a “lower” grade of existence, then perhaps, once In a while, for the good of everything, some of the “higher” grade of existence can “leak in” and cause what we call “a miracle.” (Related: https://philosophy.inhahe.com/2017/02/15/on-the-term-supernatural/.) I do believe, for example, that medical miracles have occurred and there is documentation to prove it. I don’t know if they imply that God “intervenes,” per se; maybe they only evince the power of creation we have in each of us.

On the Term “Supernatural”

I dislike the word “supernatural.” It’s used to describe things that are extraordinary in the sense that they defy intuition or mundane/gross patterns of causality, but such things (assuming they happen/exist) are not actually “supernatural.” Whatever is real is natural, though nature may not behave according to the rules and limitations that we like to ascribe to it.

One might argue that this is a purely semantic concern, as people are not using the term “supernatural” to denote anything outside of reality/existence, but the word fosters the sense of a stark division between two layers or sets of phenomena or overarching principles, the natural and the supernatural, while in reality it’s all one thing—everything is natural. Perhaps the one thing has many interplaying principles of operation and maybe there are various levels or realms to it, but the levels are not necessarily starkly delineated or incompatible, nor are there necessarily exactly two of them (the “natural” versus the “supernatural”).

Also, the term encourages the discrediting of any phenomena that fall under its umbrella, because the aesthetic impression is of a realm way higher than anything conceivable, or phenomena or beings that somehow defy the natural coherency of the universe. In other words, the term ‘”supernatural” conveys a sense that the phenomenon or object in question somehow eludes the natural order of things, which would be preposterous. And so skeptical/atheist/academic/scientistic/physicalist types are prone to dismissing the idea of anything “supernatural” as non-existent, whereas using other words for those things might be conducive to seeing them as more characteristically different rather than categorically different, which could help open their minds to seeing that there may be natural principles behind them that interweave more readily with scientifically known principles and physicality.

Sometimes taking a word to its logical extreme, such as defining everything as natural, defeats the purpose of using the word. I think this is the case if we claim that everything is “natural,” in the sense of being “earthly” or “environmental,” on account of the idea that that humans evolved within nature and are a part of it therefore all of our creations, including LSD and skyscrapers, are just as “natural” as a monkey using a stick to get insects out of a tree. Even though there’s no categorical distinction between what’s “natural” in this sense and what’s not, and even though there are plenty of in-between cases where it would be hard to decide, the word is useful to describe things that clearly fall within the general theme of products of geology, evolution, etc. that are not man-made, which is obviously a very different arena by characteristic. (See also this essay on why we shouldn’t take the term “natural” to its logical extreme.) But this is not the case with the greater sense of the word “natural” as the opposite of “supernatural.” This sense of the word “natural” as I’m suggesting using it is in opposition to the term “supernatural” which could be said to be a self-contradictory characterization, rather than being in opposition to “artificial,” so it may rightly include anything that’s real. 

One might object that “natural” describes everything by definition then it means nothing, but it actually only describes real things, and we know that the word “real” is valid and useful. One might then argue that we might as well just use the word “real” instead, but the point here isn’t so much to use an alternative to the word “real” as to eliminate the use of the misleading term “supernatural.”

One might still argue that if everything that’s real is “natural” then calling it “natural” as a characterization is meaningless, but I would say that sometimes words that apply to everything that exists by definition (such as, for example, God, by some people’s accounts) confer implications as to the fundamental qualities or nature of everything (such as sacredness, divinity, holiness, meaning, consciousness, etc.), thus giving the word meaning. But then, it’s not even really necessary that defining everything as “natural” imparts special meaning, when the point is only to defy the use of the term “supernatural” as a sort of self-contradicting category which one can use to dismiss anything unseen.

Anyway, back to the subject… some people actually go so far as to define “natural” as pertaining to the physical and the so-called laws of physics. (I say “so-called laws” for reasons explained in this essay and this essay.) This definition is even reflected in one of the senses of “natural” in Webster’s dictionary. (That’s not necessarily a justification or obligation to use the word this way, as a dictionary is descriptive, not prescriptive, and it’s only one of many alternative senses.) You could argue that definitions are neither correct nor incorrect, they’re just a basis for further communication, but there are implications involved, and how you frame things matters. To define “natural” as physical is to imply that what’s non-physical is unnatural and is therefore adverse and potentially unthinkable. And, as I’ve advocated for above, some people may see the natural as being all there is, so defining “natural” as physical borders on making the unfounded, scientistic assumption that nothing non-physical exists. If the non-physical is not seen as unnatural per se according to this definition (perhaps it’s seen as “supernatural” instead, whatever implications that might carry), it’s at least seen as categorically different and separate from everything we naturally know. It wooifies the non-physical.

Either way, it’s wrongheaded, mundanifying, magic-killing and life-suppressing thinking. The idea that the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution have demystified the world is a myth: the world is still fundamentally mysterious; the only thing that’s changed is that our thinking has become more narrow-minded and relegated to a thin, overlaying stratum of perception, relation, mind and its faculties. See also Notes on Science, Scientism, Mysticism, Religion, Logic, Physicalism, Skepticism, Etc.

“How gibbering man becomes, when he is really clever, and thinks he is giving the ultimate and final description of the universe! Can’t he see that he is merely describing himself, and that the self he is describing is merely one of the more dead and dreary states that man can exist in?” -D.H. Lawrence