Once we arrive at the conclusion that mere
matter and natural laws are not sufficient to explain the existence of the
universe and life, but a super intelligence is, then what? For some, this
begins a life of exploration. Others turn the matter over to organized
religions that claim to be a conduit to the creator. For yet others, who
assume supernatural is synonymous with superstition, it means stopping before
The word supernatural is laden with emotion
and confusion. It connotes a surrealism, subjectivity and phantasm that makes
it easy to set aside, reject or use to justify an agenda. In religions it
circumscribes a sacred domain where profane and mundane science cannot tread
and where religious leaders can claim special knowledge and exert power.
Materialists use the word to smugly describe the place where people go when
they have abandoned science and reason.
Here's the point I would like to make that
will clear the air for all sides and create common ground for progress: there
is no supernatural; there is only natural.
This is why I can say such a thing. To know
what supernatural is, natural must be defined. The prefix, "super,"
means beyond, or exceeding. So we must know where "natural" ends
before we can know what is beyond it. The problem is, no one would (a better
word is should) be so silly or bold as to define the limits of natural. That's
because philosophic and religious ideas that separate natural from
supernatural have fallen one after another to the revelations of scientific
exploration. Lightning turned out not to be arrows in the quivers of
supernatural gods, disease was not supernatural devil possession and the
universe was not a supernatural firmament circling the Earth.
In earlier times, the state was religion and
the church defined science. Ancient Egypt and Rome typified this. There was no
real separation of secular from religious. All was hunky dory. Then along came
the scientific revolution, beginning in the 17th century, and science decided
to depart from the fold. A truce was made and a deal struck whereby the church
could have the supernatural, and science would take the natural. The fear of
being shot down yet again by science has created a mood of capitulation by
religions. They have surrendered even where they need not have, such as with
the issue of evolution.
In any case, this unwritten agreement about a
division of authority worked out pretty well until quantum physics showed that
there was no real divide between the physical and non physical (the
supernatural). Now we are once again at the point where all knowledge properly
belongs under one header: reality-truth-nature.
This is an interesting state of affairs, not
particularly comfortable for either side. Religion sees its supernatural being
whittled away by advancing science; science sees its materialism vaporizing
into a quantum world that has flavors of religion.
Exploration is the enemy of the supernatural.
The more we learn, the more natural there is and the less supernatural. That
does not bode well for the word. When a concept keeps caving in to the
pressure of advancing knowledge, it may be a good time to retire it. If we do,
a reason for much of the conflict between science and religion will disappear.
Since truth is our objective, discarding a
word should not be a problem. That which is revealed from nature, natural
things, is just truth. There is neither super-truth nor super-nature. Truth is
truth. We may not have fully discovered all the truth nature contains - and we
certainly haven't - but that does not make the yet unknown super-truth or
All things of truth are natural, even that
which we cannot see, hear, feel, smell, touch or even conceptualize. Radio
waves are natural, X-rays are, as are microbes, molecules, atoms and quanta,
even though they are invisible, unknown to our naked senses and fundamentally
inconceivable. There are infinite unknowns beyond our perception and even our
technology. Is it all supernatural or is it just nature yet undiscovered or
poorly understood? That's rhetorical. Is it not the height of egocentricity
and an outrageous curiosity of humans that we would define the world as
divided into natural and supernatural based upon what we humans have or have
not discovered or understand?
Extraordinary, miraculous and paranormal
events are actually only glimpses of reality beyond normal human bounds, not
aberrations beyond nature. They are just preternatural, meaning outside the
normal course of nature, unusual, not supernatural. If a person can walk
through a wall, materialize objects out of thin air, see through matter, rise
from the dead or predict the future, that means they have a special ability to
tap into a part of natural reality that most people cannot, not that they are supernatural.
To disprove events such as near-death and
out-of-body experiences, some skeptical investigators duplicate elements of
these experiences with drugs such as DMT and LSD and with centrifugal g-force
experiments. The assumption is that if unusual phenomena can be induced by a
physical act, in other words shown to be natural, that that diminishes their
merit by proving they are not supernatural. The logic of that escapes me. The
fact that physical natural factors can induce extraordinary phenomena does not
prove that such events cannot occur outside of the laboratory in the private
lives of individuals. It proves that apparently "supernatural"
events are natural. Exactly my point: there is no dividing line between the
Weird extraordinary things are not that at
all, in a more expansive understanding of reality. The point needs to be
whether things are true, if they are facts and actually happen, not whether we
can classify them as supernatural or not.
So let's strike the word
"supernatural" from vocabulary (put in quotes henceforth) and from
our logic. That way we will not be surprised by discovery or disappointed that
our special little "supernatural" thing turned out to be natural.
Understanding that all is natural opens the
mind, removes fear and makes everything fair game for study and exploration.
On the other hand, the more "supernatural" we accede to, the more we
are helpless victims and supplicants. Religion - constructed around the
"supernatural" - can be an excuse to escape responsibility for our
own actions and put things in God's "supernatural" court: "It
was God's will," "God made me do it," "God is punishing
me," "God is blessing me." How convenient for those not wanting
to take responsibility for their own actions. Life is better lived as if an
atheist (no irreverence or disrespect intended): Don't blame God and don't
expect God to step in.
Those who claim special knowledge of the
"supernatural" can gather power to themselves to lord it over those
who buy into their claim of privilege. We mere natural creatures can only bow
to that which is beyond nature and to the agents who claim their guesses about
it are sureties. But how can any mere natural creature speak with certainty
about that which is "supernatural," and therefore unreal?
Not only do some within religion take
advantage of the "supernatural," so too do materialists. The latter
assume, with no little bravado, that because the "supernatural" has
had to constantly retreat in the face of advancing science, that eventually
everything will be measured and tallied with their machines. They see
"supernatural" as an excuse for intellectual laziness. To them the
"supernatural" is either unreal, fraudulent, or a part of nature
waiting to be harnessed by scientific instruments and nomenclature.
The failure of the "supernatural"
in the past to stand up to scientific scrutiny gives materialists an excuse to
reject all nonmaterial phenomena and assume that materialism is an accurate
explanation of all of reality...which it most certainly is not. In other
words, since science defeated the supernatural doctrine that the Earth was the
center of the universe, it is reasoned that science will defeat any religious,
spiritual or metaphysical idea. To them no investigation is needed. Something
being "supernatural" is enough reason to reject it out of hand.
"Supernatural" becomes an easily defeated straw man.
By assuming that things beyond measuring are
just religious fantasy or psychic voodoo, materialists close off discovery and
condemn themselves to a narrowed and constricted viewpoint that reveals only a
smidgen of reality. On the other hand, by attempting to strictly define the
"supernatural" and then having that definition constantly gnawed
away by advancing science, the religionist is faced with constant intellectual
dilemmas. However, if "supernatural" is stricken from vocabulary,
everything then becomes natural. The materialist cannot so easily dismiss
nonmaterial events no matter how weird they may be; the religionist can
welcome any discovery science has to offer.
Omitting "supernatural" opens the
whole panorama of reality for exploration and discovery. The more we learn
about nature, the greater its girth. What lies out there yet to be discovered,
however, is natural even if we never discover it, are incapable of doing so -
or it has no corpus and is infinite, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.
In the end, the term
"supernatural," (and remember it is only a word) seems to only
create utility for those who make pretentious claims to know all about it, and
to provide an excuse for materialist's rejection of anything that falls under
its rubric. Demystifying reality by releasing it from the artificial bonds of
"supernatural" is the necessary beginning to rational, scientific
and spiritual (three words that should mean the same thing) discovery.
About the Author
Dr. Wysong: A former veterinary
clinician and surgeon, college instructor, inventor of numerous medical,
surgical, nutritional, athletic and fitness products and devices, research
director for the company by his name and founder of the philanthropic Wysong
check out http://www.cerealwysong.com