• Purple Pond
    253
    What kind of evidence could there be for supernatural phenomena? As an atheist I'm trying to think of examples of what would convince me that there is a god and that the physical world is not all there is.

    How about miracles? An example of a miracle would be the splitting of the red sea when the Jews are escaping from Egypt. A miracle points to a divine being with a purpose violating natural law to produce a desired outcome for certain people. The problem is that if the laws of nature could be violated then they aren't laws at all. If the laws of gravity fail in any instance then the laws of gravity are wrong since it makes a universal statement. How then do you define what a miracle is when either there are no laws of nature, or they do exist and the laws are truly immutable.

    What other examples are there that provides evidence for something supernatural?
  • DingoJones
    255
    That seems pretty close to saying that the “supernatural” is impossible by definition, is that right?
    You didn't get to finish your OP, so its unclear exactly what you are positing here.
  • Relativist
    491
    Indisputable evidence of a clear violation of laws of nature would work. e.g.: regrowing a leg that had beem amputated.
  • Purple Pond
    253
    That seems pretty close to saying that the “supernatural” is impossible by definition, is that right?DingoJones
    I'm not making a statement on whether or not evidence of the supernatural is possible. I'm genuinely interested in what would count as evidence for the supernatural. My only problem is concerning miracles and how they are possible.
  • DingoJones
    255
    Well isnt a breach in the laws of nature the exact thing “supernatural” is meant to describe?
  • Purple Pond
    253
    Well isnt a breach in the laws of nature the exact thing “supernatural” is meant to describe?DingoJones
    It could be something that can't be explained by science but is not in conflict with laws of nature. In other words, it is complementary with nature not opposing it.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    It could be something that can't be explained by science but is not in conflict with laws of nature. It other words, it is complementary with nature not opposing it.Purple Pond

    Wouldn't that just depend on the situation? It's easy enough to imagine convincing scenarios. Just watch any show like Supernatural, or the movies like Dr. Strange and Harry Potter.

    If the stars in the sky all of a sudden formed the words, "I Am that I Am", then we would be forced into considering non-natural explanations.
  • All sight
    326
    The problem is not a "violation of natural law", as that is a nonsense, as the prerequisite of the judgment is a complete knowledge of nature, so that one could know whether or not it is in principle natural or not. Just being something that we didn't think could happen naturally doesn't mean that it would be impossible for it to happen naturally. The violation of a theory of how nature works usually just means that theory is wrong, rather than that the theory is correct, but something impossible, and thus supernatural must be taking place.

    What matters is the whether it can or cannot be explained naturally in principle, but people take positions such as "god of the gaps", and suggest that everything is explicable naturally, even if it has in fact yet to be, or cannot take place.

    The former case is a naive conceit, and the second it's just axiomatic. Personally I think that if you think that love is explainable with chemical descriptions, rather than the supernatural, then you probably don't know what it is. The regrowing of limps, and other parlor tricks could never be as miraculous.
  • DingoJones
    255

    Ok, I see what you mean.
    Under that definition, its hard to imagine what would be convincing. There would be other possibilities than god as an explanation, such as advanced alien technology, or specifically adapted life forms that display psychic phenomenonor something.
    I suppose even things like collective will power of mankind or loosely defined magic would fit your criteria.
    The only thing I can think of is a display of omniscience. If a being were to have the answer to any question, who could at will present limitless knowledge, that would be something that fit your criteria and a strong reason to at least be open to the idea of god.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    What other examples are there that provides evidence for something supernatural?Purple Pond

    Supposing you were sitting there in front of your computer contemplating your next post, and you heard, clear as a bell, a voice that said "Jack Jones" (or whatever you name is) "I am god and I am real and you are not imagining my voice. You will now feel an intense comforting warmness." And you did feel a comforting warmness which lasted for days.

    Would that be sufficient? (John Wesley, an Anglican priest and the founder of the Methodist Church felt his heart "strangely warmed" and reassured.

    Or do you need to see the stars in the sky rearranged to say "I am god and you all are totally screwed"?
  • Purple Pond
    253
    If the stars in the sky all of a sudden formed the words, "I Am that I Am", then we would be forced into considering non-natural explanations.Marchesk
    Or you could be having a psychotic episode.
  • All sight
    326
    To put it in another way, the emotions are salient, directional, highlighting. They reveal what is significant. You can say as aggregates of form and apprehension. They also have a life of their own, and impel and compel. Love is just of a totally different kind and order of the rest, which are in some sense in conflict with the world, and draws distinctions, diversions, separations, all anxiety inducing, all striving, all craving for change. Satisfaction, and love differ almost entirely to the rest, and are binding, anxiety suppressing, inducing of selflessness, calm, relaxation, serenity. It's just a completely different plane of existence.

    Conflict permeates one right down to the way they move, with effort and striving, with weight. Their fields of vision are of lower orders, their sentience singular.
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    Or you could be having a psychotic episode.Purple Pond

    By me you mean the human race? I guess that would be one possibility we'd be forced to consider.
  • Jake
    906
    Supposing you were sitting there in front of your computer contemplating your next post, and you heard, clear as a bell, a voice that said "Jack Jones" (or whatever you name is) "I am god and I am real and you are not imagining my voice.Bitter Crank

    Many years ago I had an experience something like that. I was sleeping and was shaken wide awake by a voice which said only, "I am here" in a deep masculine Jehovah-like voice. There was no mention of God, but that was the first reference that came to mind, due to the tone of the voice.

    It didn't feel like a dream, but something very real. As example, I got up out of bed and explored the whole house to see if someone was actually there. Didn't find Baby Jesus hiding in a closet though, so eventually went back to bed.

    I have no idea what if anything this experience might mean. It could mean that I ate too big of a burrito for dinner. But 40 years later, the memory remains.
  • Jake
    906
    What kind of evidence could there be for supernatural phenomena?Purple Pond

    We don't have compelling evidence of the supernatural, but one need look no farther than the history of science to find compelling evidence of vast ignorance. That doesn't prove the supernatural exists, but it does strongly suggest that an open mindedness to the seemingly impossible is in order.
  • khaled
    363
    Supernatural just means: Supernatural for now. Imagine if the Abrahamic God really did come down and show us all his greatness, bending the laws of physics left and right and completely destroying all our conceptions of an objective reality that does not depend on him. Well, fast forward a generation or two and you'll find that humans developed theories to accommodate God's moods and to study his mind. We already did this with theology. And if there is enough evidence and consistency to God's moods we would be able to have an even more accurate theory of physics that incorporates the fact that God can come down and change things any minute. "Supernatural" is a temporary state and no amount of evidence will change that. Seriously, even look at quantum mechanics. In quantum mechanics, there is REAL RANDOMNESS in the way particles act. As in it is not randomness resultant from lack of information like the randomness of a coin flip (if you knew Newton's laws and the initial state of the coin you'd be able to know precisely how it will land) but truly REAL randomness. At first, we called it supernatural but now it's a pretty normal fact that everyone accepts.

    TLDR; Supernatural is a temporary state and no amount of evidence will change that
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    Interesting. Also about 40 or 50 years ago, I had two dreams in which I met the Devil. In one the Devil was in a person I knew, had some reason to fear (a threat to personal autonomy maybe); in the other he was much less distinct but more threatening. The setting of the dream was not at all hellish -- it was hometown sited.

    From one psychoanalytic POV, the dream was clearly a message from the unconscious to NOT take up this guy's invitation to live with him during graduate school as a lover. (I did anyway -- it worked out well). From a POV as to whether the supernatural exists, it was a validating message (though about the devil rather than Jehovah... one has to take what one can get).

    When I was a child, even into adolescence, I had a fear of dark places -- like the barn where we stored coal. One of my jobs was to fill buckets of coal after school and bring them to the house for the stove. I always tried to get this done while it was still light out. I knew the barn like the back of my hand, but alone in the dark it took on a malevolent character. As a mature adult I have felt these feelings about dark places only very rarely, and they were easily rationalized.

    It isn't hard at all to imagine how a person immersed in a culture where it was believed that the world was infested with benign and malignant small gods could be both comforted and terrorized frequently. Imagining spirits seems like something humans are just primed to do -- unless otherwise instructed. And most of us are not otherwise instructed. Billions are encouraged to believe in 1, 2, 3... 50 gods.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.5k
    "Supernatural" could just be advanced technology. Advanced technology can appear to contradict the laws of physics as we understand them. What would the essence of a supernatural thing be that distinguishes it from natural things?
  • Jake
    906
    Thanks for sharing your history Crank. I don't really know if the comparison is apt, but you sort of remind me of a good friend of mine who was raised Amish. I like the vibe. So ok, we won't send you out to the barn to get the coal to keep the forum furnace going, agreed.

    I had another related incident when I was awake. I was about 16, and surfing by myself. A big afternoon storm came up so I got out of the water and sat under an overhang on the nearby beach house (vacant) to wait for the storm to pass.

    I was bored while sitting there so for something to do I played a game, and asked God to give me a sign if he existed. (I was on the edge of walking away from my Catholic upbringing at the time). I waited, I waited, I waited. Nothing. More waiting. More nothing. Ok, who cares, no big deal, the storm passed, I went back to surfing. It wasn't a big event, just more of an idle teenage day dream, quickly set aside and forgotten.

    Well, almost. Fifty years later I can't remember anything else about that day, that week, that month. I'm not entirely sure what year it was. I don't remember whether the surf was any good that day. But the memory of asking that question remains with me to this day.

    This proves nothing at all, but suggests that if there is a God he probably has his own schedule, his own way of making a point, his own way of answering questions.

    t isn't hard at all to imagine how a person immersed in a culture where it was believed that the world was infested with benign and malignant small gods could be both comforted and terrorized frequently. Imagining spirits seems like something humans are just primed to do -- unless otherwise instructed.Bitter Crank

    There's a logical basis for the idea that vast numbers of humans have imagined spirits because something like spirits really do exist. Every species on the planet is brilliant within it's niche, or it wouldn't be there. And, every species is largely blind beyond it's niche.

    It seems entirely possible to me that there are things going on over our heads that we don't have the equipment to perceive, given that this is true for every other species of life ever discovered. It's actually wildly speculative to assume that this couldn't be true, given the pile of evidence that suggests it just might be.

    I don't mean something supernatural necessarily, but phenomena within the laws of nature that are just not accessible to us. Again, every species of life ever discovered sees only a slice of reality. Why not us too?

    The logical flaw of those who would reject this is the idea that because we can see more of reality than other animals, we can therefore have a complete picture, that what we see is what is real. Ok, that could be, but how about this.....

    Prove it.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.5k
    There's a logical basis for the idea that vast numbers of humans have imagined spirits because something like spirits really do exist.Jake
    You mean like how there was a logical basis for the idea that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe because the Earth really is flat and the center of the universe? Oh, wait it isnt. You're simply appealing to the majority, which can be wrong. And there is such a thing as a mass delusion.

    A more likely explanation is that humans have imaginations and adopt the norm of the society they find themselves in.
  • Jake
    906
    A more likely explanation is that humans have imaginations and adopt the norm of the society they find themselves in.Harry Hindu

    Ok, I hear you, you're content to ignore the well established real world fact that every other species of life ever discovered can perceive only a limited slice of reality and is blind to the rest.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    This is a church camp story illustrating what faith is supposed to be like. I have added a couple of my own touches to it.

    A man was climbing a mountain. He liked to climb mountains, and he was good at it. This day, however, things did not go well at all and he found himself stuck at the end of his rope and his tools somewhere far below, having fallen off his belt. The situation was not good. He wasn't going to be able to climb up or back down the rock.

    He wasn't very religious. He was in a very bad fix, however, and he feared that he would die. So he prayed to God, most fervently, because he was as one can imagine, very afraid. He prayed and prayed.

    Suddenly he felt a very strong Presence near him. "God?" he quavered?.

    "Yes, child, I am here."

    "I'm afraid I am going to die." the man said.

    "Yes, I see that. But I am here."

    "God, I'm sorry I've never prayed to you before."

    "Yes, I know that you feel sorry about not praying." God said.

    "God, I've done very, very bad things to people--things much worse than Brett Kavanaugh has done."

    "Oh yes, I know what you have done -- I was there when you did those very, very bad things. I was there with Brett Kavanaugh, too."

    "God, why do you want to save me?"

    (God thought to himself, "Who said anything about saving this jerk? It would, though, make for excellent PR if I saved him. He's the type who will never stop talking about it. He must, however, pass a test of faith.")

    "Because I love you, my child." God said.

    "God, I don't see how I can make it back up the mountain, even with your help."

    "I am very powerful." God said.

    "Ok, tell me what to do," the man said.

    "Let go."

    Very sappy, and not sapient. Through stories like this children (and adults) are encouraged to think that God might (possibly, maybe, perhaps) show up in the hour of great need and save us. Like, "Blessed Mary pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of my Senate Judicial Committee hearing" Brett prayed... until he lost his cool and started ranting and raving.

    Judge Kavanaugh needs to read more classical drama, where the Gods routinely play nasty tricks on pricks like himself.
  • Sir2u
    1.4k
    I had an experience when I was about 10, while visiting one of the many English stately homes our family loved touring.

    The guide asked everyone to gather around him and let the kids come to the front, it was a rather restricted area. All of the other kids pushed to the front but I had this feeling that it was not a good thing to do so I stayed at the back.
    The guide explained that the place they had found the remains of one of the mistresses of the 17th century owner of the place, that had gone missing when his wife had found out, was exactly where these kids were standing. Shrieks and screams rang out while I laughed about it.

    No idea what why I did not want to move but I can still remember saying to myself "Don't go"
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    Too sarcastic, @Sir2U so deleted. Keep moving. Nothing to see here.
  • Sir2u
    1.4k
    Maybe you were having a touch of oppositional defiant disorder that day and just couldn't accept the authority of the guide.Bitter Crank

    That's doubtful, he was one of those honey voiced, sweet talking people. I can still hear him saying "Gather around but let the little ones come to the front so that they can see".

    Better to develop this problem as a child than when you grow older -- people really don't like it when adults behave that way, I've found. Especially when it persists. I developed the problem sometime around 30. Bosses tend to be annoyed when employees dismiss their authority as nothing but some sort of sham.Bitter Crank

    I had the bad fortune to develop it at about 17. The family split up and we went back to live in England and I hated everything and everyone that thought they knew what was best for me. Didn't take too long for me to get into enough trouble that I did not want to live there anymore. So I did what everyone told me was the last thing I should do and came to live in Central America. Best decision of my life. But I still have problems with authorities, especially those that don't know what I know but try to tell me how to do things.
  • yazata
    35
    Purple Pond says:

    What kind of evidence could there be for supernatural phenomena? As an atheist I'm trying to think of examples of what would convince me that there is a god and that the physical world is not all there is.

    It's an interesting question. Thanks for starting the thread.

    There seem to be three different things mentioned there: 'supernatural phenomena', 'there is a god' and 'the physical world is not all there is'. Those aren't all synonymous and might involve different evidences.

    For example, the existence of mathematics might (arguably, for mathematical Platonists) be evidence that 'the physical world isn't all there is'.

    https://www.iep.utm.edu/mathplat/

    And things like hauntings or "psychic phenomena" might (arguably, if they really happen) be evidence of 'supernatural phenomena', which may or may not be a subset of 'the physical world isn't all there is' idea, while not necessarily implying 'there is a god'.

    How about miracles? ... A miracle points to a divine being with a purpose violating natural law to produce a desired outcome for certain people. The problem is that if the laws of nature could be violated then they aren't laws at all.

    I'm not sure that a worldview that endorses methodological naturalism could recognize a miracle even if its nose (do worldviews have noses?) was rubbed in it. Methodological naturalism demands that natural explanations be sought for natural events. (This is the approach that modern science has successfully taken.) So even if a miracle in your (and David Hume's) violation of the natural order sense occurred, the methodological naturalist would assume that it must have a natural explanation, even if it's unknown at the moment. So a research program might be launched to find it. So the most that a methodological naturalist would see is an anomalous (for the moment) physical event whose natural/physical cause is still not understood.

    Interestingly (to me, anyway), St. Augustine had a rather similar understanding of miracles. His idea was that God originally created all of the laws of nature at the beginning for all time, and doesn't act capriciously, changing his mind and violating them with miracles.

    So what accounts for miracles that seemingly violate the order of nature? Augustine's idea was that a miracle isn't really a violation of the order of nature at all, but rather a violation of our understanding of the order of nature, a violation of what we expect to happen. (Hence his theory is called the 'epistemic theory of miracles'.)

    Put another way, alongside the big and obvious laws of nature that people learn today in physics class, there are lots of little small-print ones like the numbered notes at the back of a scholarly book, obscure minor principles that God wrote into the cosmic plan, creating exceptions that God knew (in his divine omniscience) that he would need later.

    I'll speculate that this idea, coming from an authority as mighty as Augustine, might have helped justify medieval sorcery. The sorcerer was just somebody with access to all the obscure small-print laws of nature, inscribed now in his grimoire, his book of spells.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemic_theory_of_miracles
  • BaldMenFighting
    15
    My defintion of supernatural would be:

    - Something which defies the currently understood laws of nature
    - AND shows evidence of an intellect at work

    These two things combined could be, for example:

    - A planet shaped like a kitten's head ... and it's only found orbiting the brightest star in Leo. So, you have the kitten's head which laws of nature don't seem to allow (it really looks like a kitten's head), and then there's the intellectual abstraction, that it's orbitting the brightest star in Leo, another feline connection.

    So, you have breaking known laws of nature, strongly paired with an intellectual abstraction, so you have intellect at work + breaking known laws of nature.
  • BaldMenFighting
    15
    Personally, l consider the preponderance of the Phi ratio to be supernatural.

    - It is not implicit in known laws of nature (is it?)
    - It is an intellectual abstraction (phi ratio is the objective anchor of the subjective world of aesthetics, aesthetics being a world of abstraction)

    Therefore it passes my test of the supernatural.
  • Ram
    105
    Seeing something in a dream then seeing it in real life the next day.
  • khaled
    363
    Patterns are not always the result of intellect though. A randomly generated sequence of numbers on a computer could write something like 6969696969696969 and that would not be any evidence of intelligent design
  • khaled
    363
    Dreams are often predictive due to brain processes and memory. For example, if you have a big test, don't study, dream about failing and then fail, that was not due to anything supernatural. That was just your subconscious making a rational prediction. I think you are describing "synchronicity" by Carl Jung (even though he relegates it to mysterious subconscious processing rather than the supernatural)
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