How should we define the supernatural?


Ah… good. Thank you for the correction. I’m glad I got you wrong.

Now, the problem with the definition you want to use for “natural” is that metaphysical things (which are, literally, beyond physics) can be said to be perceived by the senses… and ID supporters will argue that if the senses can perceive natural things, and God can do things that people can see… then Science can detect God’s design in living things.

Why does it matter? Well, if it was my 7 year old son, I would be fairly confident that he didn’t put much thought into the term “hyper-natural”.

But if a seasoned scientist proposes it, I would at least have the comfort of knowing that he put some thought into the idea.

But … don’t let me be the party pooper… there are plenty of those who can fill that role.

@jongarvey, what do you think of the term “hypernatural”? Sounds like the topic of another column in Hump of the Camel!

To push this to extremes, they are right in a sense. If a 1,000 foot god figure came down from the heavens and poofed a species into being right in front of us, I think we might call that supernatural.

@T_aquaticus, and I would agree with you - - most enthusiastically. If only we had such a beast!

But I worry about the ID supporters who would “make hay” over a one-size fits all definition of nature.

I promise, it was not my intent to make you uncomfortable. I apologize.


You are gracious to a fault! Think nothing of it. I’m feeling much better now.

But I fear that you will use the term again, and my condition will suddenly worsen!

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I will assiduously avoid using it where you might trip over it.

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George, maybe I burnt too many brain cells today at my day job, but I can’t figure out what would be metaphysical but perceived by the senses. Can you give an example.

That’s one is easy. Physics has more rigorous standards :stuck_out_tongue:

ID proponents mostly already believe that evolutionists (including TEs) are saying that.


It’s always difficult to predict when someone will invoke metaphysical reality and equate it to the real world… but let offer some possible excursions into the “many fantastic worlds” of Creationists:

Exo 24:11: And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

Gen 3:8: And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day:

Some more complex renderings of the issue can be seen here:
Pope John XXII (1316–1334) caused a controversy involving the Beatific Vision.[14] He said not as Pope but as a private theologian that the saved do not attain the Beatific Vision until Judgment Day, a view more consistent with soul sleep.[15] The general understanding at the time was that the saved attained Heaven after being purified and before Judgment Day. He never proclaimed his belief as doctrine but rather as an opinion (see ex cathedra , as defined at the First Vatican Council in 1870).

The Sacred College of Cardinals held a consistory on the problem in January 1334, and Pope John backed away from his novel views to the more standard understanding. His successor, Pope Benedict XII, declared it doctrine that the saved see Heaven (and thus, God) before Judgment Day.

And of course, there are the more celebrated “visions”, like Our Lady of Fatima!

You’re right. I would classify all of this under the concept of “natural” my definition is somewhat deficient. Tools that “extend” our senses as well as statistical predictions that can be evaluated these tools should be included.

As someone who believes in a supernatural God, I believe can interacts with us in ways that not perceptible to our physical senses, e.g. through direct interaction with our mind/subconsciousness.

Ok, Gotcha. Yes I would say those are supernatural events but probably fall under my definition. Back to to the drawing board for me. My definition doesn’t take into account “miracles”.


If only more people could see, and react, as quickly as you do!

How do you know there are “natural laws”?
The idea of laws in nature itself is dependent on a mind/will setting the universe into a particular pattern.
The entire problem is the assumption that regular patterns in nature occur without any reason other than the fundamental nature of particles of matter.

Materialism is definitely a basic assumption of MN. If not in theory, then definitely in practise.
Yet no one can know whether matter is fundamental, or a mind is… or even if both are.

I am not sure this is how it started “long ago”… In the past, people assumed that the mind was fundamental and thus all actions (even of nature ) can be traced to consciousness beings. They ascribed things like rain, thunder etc to conscious agents and gave them names.
Nowadays, people “understand”, these things in terms of “material interactions”… Though matter itself seems to be a dream.

I’m not sure what that means. However, I’ll agree that what we mean by “matter” is not at all clear.

Ya, that’s another way to say it.
The earliest understanding of matter was that it could be broken down into an indivisible particle and different materials would have different such fundamental indivisible particles(proposed by Democritus as early as 400BCE approx).
Turned out to be true… except that the fundamental particle that gives unique properties to materials is the atom and it is divisible…
Hence a broken dream…
Now we have a lot of wierd stuff (I don’t think “stuff” is the right word either) which we still call particles because we don’t really have a word to describe them…
Edit: to be a accurate, it wasn’t the earliest understanding of matter… just one of the early ones.


My concern here is that science itself keeps on extending what we can sense. Mostly indirectly through instruments, but also what we can sense directly, eg by discovering people who sense more colors than normal.

That is why I think it is futile to try to predefine natural and better to rely on looking at what science does.

Thanks for clarifying why you used ‘physical’ to describe senses used by scientific work.

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In theology, the categories would be “creator” and “creation”…
It would be impossible to define supernatural without defining natural… and “natural” doesn’t really have a clear definition.

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Here are some thoughts on this.

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