Is It Correct to Say There is “No” Evidence For the Supernatural Part 2

If you didn’t see it yet, you might want to go to part 1 of this post for the earlier part of the discussion.

I’m moving on to part 2 because I think I’ve got a clearer perspective now from past discussions on the point I wanted to get at. I’ll now make a case using something I touched on, but which I stopped short of more fully developing a case for in the first post.

Now to bring greater clarity to a point I brought up in the first post, I think a better way to title the topic might be “Is it correct to say that there is no case to be made from scientific evidence for the existence of the supernatural?” So with that in mind…

The following is a list of defined terms I will use instead of the ones I listed in part 1;

Abductive inference: generally where more than one plausible inference can be drawn from the evidence. In regards to this discussion, typically a plausible or probable inference, which is not verifiable by observation, drawn from relevant but incomplete evidence.

Scientific evidence: scientific fact, i.e., any objective and verifiable observation.

Supernatural: of or relating to an order of existence outside of ordinary experience that transcends physical reality.

As I understand it, abduction is a generally accepted form of reasoning in philosophy. History, criminal investigation and prosecutions, and science concerning past events and empirically unverifiable entities make use of abductive reasoning.

Some examples from science would be explanations for past events like the big bang, simpler to more complex evolution, e.g., man evolving from ape, and for empirically unverifiable entities like quantum particles and space.

Also in science, formulating hypotheses is based on abductive reasoning. If they are attempts to explain past events, or entities that are beyond human limitations of observation, as long as they have not been successfully reproduced experimentally or remain unobserved, it seems to follow that they would remain abductive inferences.

Unlike inductive inferences involving observable mechanical descriptions, as far as I can tell, abductive inferences don’t seem to be falsifiable by predictions. Predictions would only serve as evidence to strengthen or weaken an abductive inference. What occurs to me is that abductive inferences can be “falsified” only by being shown to be logically or metaphysically impossible.

So now, on to an abductive case from scientific evidence for the existence of the supernatural. I understand that both Alexander Vilenkin and Steven Hawking have made statements in the past to the effect that all scientific evidence to date points to the conclusion that there was a first physical event from which all proceeding physical events originated.

And as far as I know, all scientific evidence to date shows that physical events require a cause. So based on what this evidence points to, it certainly seems within reason to infer that there is a cause for the first physical event, and that it could not have been physical. And therefore, as defined above, a supernatural entity as the cause for what the evidence in question points to would be among the few available logically possible explanations.

If that’s the case, then it seems unless it can be shown that making an abductive case using the aforementioned scientific evidence is somehow logically invalid, I think it’s fair to say that a case can be made from scientific evidence for the existence of the supernatural. In other words, besides other types of evidence, there specifically is scientific evidence from which to abductively infer the existence of the supernatural.

No it is not accurate to say there is no evidence. :slight_smile:


The OP is just a tired old rehash of the “oh there had to be a cause for the big bang” argument, traveling under the overly lofty title of a cosmological argument. Yawn.

Someone who wants to argue that there is “evidence for the supernatural” has to do the work of defining what they mean by evidence. Once they’ve done that, the argument is usually over, since the ‘evidence’ will either be arguments like the cosmological argument above, or it will be human reports of various events or encounters. The first, to me, is not evidence at all. The second is indeed evidence, of such poor quality that it fails to convince me. But the persistence of the second category of “evidence” requires me (in my view) to avoid the strong blanket claim that there is no evidence for the supernatural.


I certainly agree.

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And the supernatural. I’ve never been quite sure what is meant by that. What is the chief characteristic that sets a supernatural entity apart from a natural one? What is the difference between a natural and supernatural coffee mug, for example?


Yeah, I didn’t want to overload the system and cause a supernatural singularity that would trigger a big bang and generate a new universe in which humans evolve with the ability to see that gods are delusions. That would be bad.

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As defined in the op.

Yeah I saw it. My comment was to illustrate exactly that: once you define “evidence” then we see that this was the real core of the conversation. Someone who thinks that the cosmological argument is “evidence” or that hearing voices is “evidence” cannot be rebutted when they say they have “evidence” of the supernatural. Your post was just a rehash of a cosmological argument. If you think that’s “evidence,” then you’re all set. I think that’s laughable, but whatever.


As quoted in the op.

Under that definition there is no scientific evidence for the supernatural.


You’re restating a cosmological argument. This is tiresome.

So if you want to refute my argument engage with it. Just dismissing it out of hand does not refute or rebut it. The argument is that there is scientific evidence that can be used to make a case for the supernatural. You may not agree that the best explanation is the supernatural, but you haven’t shown my claim to be unwarranted.

@sfmatheson do you agree that there can apparently be evidence for things that are false? E.g. there is evidence that appears to indicate the proposition is true or the entity is real, but further evidence or deeper thought would show otherwise?

When you actually find such evidence for the supernatural that fits your definition of “scientific evidence”, let us know.


Oh yes, absolutely. I think where most arguments about “evidence” become ridiculous, as in this thread, are when the evidence is used in ridiculous ways. So for example, if someone gets sick and we find mold on their bread, we can say we have evidence that the mold made them sick. It’s speculative, perhaps unreasonably so, but in fact the presence of the mold is an “objective and verifiable observation” that can be causally linked to illness… so we have evidence that the mold made them sick. Later, of course, we learn that the mold is benign and that they are sick because of demonic possession due to Thinking Bad Thoughts, but at first our hypothesis was rational and based on evidence. No doubt about it.

A ridiculous use of the evidence in this case would be: the mold on the bread made the person sick by causing a hormonal imbalance in concert with chemical sensitivity exacerbated by spiritual disconnection and too much gluten. Now would we say that we have “evidence” for that proposal? For this reason, a discussion of whether there is “no evidence for the supernatural” should be assumed to be ridiculous out of the gate. How we use the evidence is a lot more important than whether there is “evidence for” this or that.


My whole point is that the “argument” can’t be refuted. It’s vacuous drivel, but it can’t be refuted. Are you reading my comments at all? Until I see that you have, I won’t respond further to you.

So you can’t refute the argument, but you can dismiss it out of hand by claiming that it is vacuous drivel without giving any justification for such. If that’s your idea of engaging with an argument then no point in any further response on your part.

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Then you are not acquainted with various quantum events such as nuclear decay or transition of electrons to lower energy states.


Are those objective and verifiable observations?

Are what objective and verifiable observations? That you appear not to be familiar with quantum events? Yes. That many quantum events appear to be uncaused? Yes. What do you know about quantum physics?