I’m going to lay out three basic arguments for belief in the supernatural. First, science itself would not be possible were it not for the effects of unseen, higher-order supernatural causes. Second, science and rational debate would not be possible unless we all have faith in the supernatural – unseen spirits not bound to material causes. Third, each of us has direct personal experience of the supernatural every waking second of every day.
Let’s first define what “supernatural” means. From Merriam-Webster:
of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil.
unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature : of, relating to, or seeming to come from magic, a god, etc.
attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit)
1: Science depends on measuring supernatural effects
We call these observable, reliable and measurable effects physical laws, forces and universal constants, but those terms are misleading, much like referring to “chance” as a causal agency. Those terms do not represent causal objects or energies we can point at, but are rather descriptions (or models) of observed patterns of behavior of matter and energy for which there is no known or observable cause. The names of these patterns and models are used as if they apply to causal things, but this is a conceptual error. When we say “gravity causes X to fall”, it is not gravity causing it because gravity is the description of the physics of the event. Something “causes it to fall”, but it is not gravity; it is whatever causes the pattern of behavior we call “gravity”.
What is the “natural world”?
The natural world is the set of phenomena that can be described and predicted according to behavioral and interactive constants. However, those laws and constants do not describe where or how such laws and constants exist in the first place, or what they are, or even how they are affecting physical phenomena. These invisible and mysterious causes are supernatural both by definition and logically because they: (1) necessarily relate to an order of existence beyond the observable natural world (since they cause the behavior that defines what we call “the natural world”, (2) are unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature (since science depends upon observing behavioral patterns, and behavioral patterns cannot explain what causes such patterns in the first place), and (3) these patterns are attributed to invisible, unknown agents (which we erroneously refer to with objectifying terminology – forces, constants and laws).
The science of the natural world depends upon an unknown, unseen superset of mysterious agencies causing the predictable, reliable, rationally understandable patterns of behavior we observe and describe as the set of natural-occurring phenomena.
2: Science & rational debate depend upon faith in the supernatural
Conducting science requires one to accept that humans have a free will capacity to identify objective facts about the universe and integrate them into theoretical systems that can be properly verified or disproved via true/false statements about experimental outcomes according to abstract principles assumed to be universally valid. Logically, this means humans must have a capacity that transcends thought as the mere product of happenstance chemical interactions. IOW, scientists must have faith that humans have the capacity to override whatever thoughts interacting chemicals happen to produce and instead force them down correct, truthful paths from an assumed objective viewpoint. Such a transcendent observational and willful capacity is necessarily supernatural, as the natural is only capable of producing whatever happenstance thoughts and “wilfulness” interacting chemicals happen to produce.
Rational debate depends upon the same assumption; that humans have some kind of non-physical agency which can supervise and override physical thought processes down paths which are correct according to abstract principles which are considered objectively binding. Such an agency is unseen and would necessarily have the power to intervene in the natural patterns producing thoughts and generating conclusions.
It is only by faith in such a supernatural agency and in the supernatural authority of abstract principles accepted as objectively valid that we can expect to be able to overcome the happenstance course of physical cause and effect in the course of our rational and scientific endeavors.
3: Everyone directly experiences the supernatural daily
Each of us experience ourselves as a seat of consciousness with direct, top-down, intentional, prescriptive control (to varying degrees) over the behaviors of many elements of our bodies and thinking processes. We don’t know how to make various cellular or chemical reactions occur that are necessary for motion and thought. Somehow, without any technical or mechanical knowledge at all, with no understanding of how to initiate or control any of the various chemical and mechanical resources, simple intention can operate what is probably the most highly advanced and complex piece of equipment in the universe with amazing precision. Like a ghost inhabiting a doll out of a movie, our will alone can set physical forces in motion, control them, and stop them on command – no physics, chemistry or mechanical knowledge required whatsoever. It is precisely like magic.
Furthermore, our will can instantly access any of virtually countless memories without any understanding whatsoever of how the memory process works or how the data retrieval process works. We can simply intend to write or say something on a subject and gain immediate access to a seemingly never-ending stream of information corresponding to our intent. We can imagine things that do not even exist in the real world, our minds effortlessly rendering a massive virtual reality for us to experience as we daydream or sleep-dream. We cannot see this agency; we cannot explain how it can immediately differentiate from innumerable, variant intents to magically set billions of cellular processes and chemical interactions on a precise course to find memories, find or generate thoughtful, relevant information, or direct our body to precisely achieve a limitless variance of actions.
We experience this self-will as transcending mere physical causation from a higher order of existence, being able to direct the matter and energy of our bodies at will. We have power over our physical and mental nature exactly like a supernatural ghost in a machine, capable of the most wondrous and amazing feats of physical complexity, creativity and computation without any understanding of how any of it is physically initiated, maintained or controlled.
That all of these things are considered “mundane” hides their astounding, miraculous, supernatural nature.