Scientific evidence for the supernatural

On another thread Jim tells us he knows of lots of scientific evidence for the supernatural

As to not derail that thread, this thread is started as place for presentation and critical examination of the claimed empirical evidence for the supernatural. :slightly_smiling_face:


I think, by definition, the most we are ever going to be able to say is:

"There is empirical evidence that we don’t know understand everything in the Universe."

When will that EVER be not true?

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Evidence, empirical evidence, scientific evidence - I don’t think theses are all the same.

For something to qualify as ‘scientific evidence’ I suggest it would need to be objective, repeatable (either through experiment or observations that can be reproduced by others) and ideally fit somehow into some wider scientific framework/theory/model. If that latter requirement cannot be satisfied, one would expect that scientists dealing with this new evidence would at least be able to come up with some new theory or model (leading to further research) however tentative at the time.

Pure data points on their own wouldn’t qualify as ‘scientific evidence’ in my view, let alone personal testimony.

If one accepts these criteria I don’t think many claims of the supernatural would qualify as ‘scientific’, but I am willing to be shown wrong.


I entirely agree.

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The distinction I’m suggesting is between direct and indirect empirical evidence. If you read my linked comment you’ll see the distinction I’m saying needs to be made. I think that science uses both and would therefore qualify as scientific evidence. But regardless, if one accepts indirect empirical evidence to make an abductive inference in science, then it would be inconsistent to not allow that for an abductive inference that is outside of science.

It would be really nice if you’d actually present your claimed scientific evidence for the supernatural instead of haggling over definitions. Well?


By definition, if we can agree, the natural consists of space, energy, matter and time, i.e., the physical contents of the cosmos. Since big bang cosmology tells us that there was a point at which all of these did not exist, that ‘nature’ did not exist, why is that not evidence for something outside of ‘nature’ and thus supernatural?

I would describe them as dependent and independent evidence. For example, you may think that light is evidence for God because you already believe that God created light. This is dependent evidence where the conclusion leads to the evidence instead of the other way around.


That seems to be a matter of definition. If the universe emerged spontaneously from a quantum vacuum, or other such state, without the involvement of a deity, would you consider that supernatural or natural?

I did in the other thread. Did you miss it?


Abductive reasoning (also called abduction, abductive inference, or retroduction) is a form of logical inference which starts with an observation or set of observations then seeks to find the simplest and most likely explanation for the observations.

### Abductive reasoning - Wikipedia

I like the term you introduce: “Abductive Reasoning”.

But when you say we should allow for abductive evidence from outside of science… you must mean for us to use this evidence to prove a point within science, right?

The problem is that when people bring in points from outside of Science it is usually for something that escapes the grasp of science completely!

Ghosts? What are they? What are they made of? Who are they? Are they even “persons”?

If you want to bring in anecdotes of ghosts to prove a point in Science that’s one thing … but it gets a lot dicier if you bring in these anecdotes to prove Metaphysics!

Do Ghosts prove kharma?
Do Ghosts prove Heaven?
Do Ghosts prove Presdestination?

These are three different metaphysical premises… and I don’t think ghosts help us with any of them.

Now, I know you weren’t talking about ghosts… but we can do this kind of analysis over and over again, now that we are clear on whether non-scientific evidence is being used to prove a point IN SCIENCE, or a NON-SCIENTIFIC point in some other area of knowledge.

But it doesn’t seem like we’re on the same page here. I’m talking about empirical evidence, meaning observable and/or reproducible evidence, and how it’s used to verify something that can be directly accessed, and used for inferences to something which cannot be directly accessed.

There is a difference between empirical observation and empirical evidence. I could make the empirical observation that water is 1 gram per milliliter, but that is not evidence for Oswald killing JFK. It is the link between the claim and the facts that defines evidence.

Just to get everything on the table, this is a quote from the other thread:

How would those observations lead to the conclusion that they were created by a supernatural deity? It seems to me that one starts with the belief in a creator deity, and then assigns those observations to the creator afterwards.


That’s a big if. It conveniently lets you avoid the theistic implications.

You ignored the question about how those things were scientific evidence for the supernatural as opposed to merely natural things we don’t fully understand yet.

I’ll take your answer here please.

It’s just an if for now. If the universe did spontaneously emerge without a creator deity, would you still consider it a supernatural process? All I am getting at is the real difference between natural and supernatural is the deity part.

Yes, and this is the key point. I can’t claim the blue sky is evidence the sky was created by magic pixies just because I believe magic pixies like the color blue. :slightly_smiling_face:

It’s an epistemological question. I have valid testimony as evidence – which you do not accept – which gives me true knowledge.

…and I have life experience, as well, that is consistent with that testimony. (Some of it is pure fun. Not all of it is easy, but all of it is delightful. :slightly_smiling_face:)

That’s nice but personal anecdotes don’t qualify as scientific evidence. Neither do unsubstantiated passages from religious texts as testimony.