4.25.2006

Observing the Unobservable: Can Science Prove the Supernatural?

“To make God a hypothesis to be tested or a conclusion to an argument is to lose the experiential basis of religion” -Ian Barbour In modern times, the popular scientific community has, by and large, frowned upon the mixing of scientific inquiry and religious belief. If the supernatural exists, it must be substantiated on the basis of experience rather than science. Or so they say. Whether this assumption is valid depends mostly on the definition of “the supernatural”. It is impossible to tell whether I have broken the speed limit unless I know what the speed limit is. Supernatural: An entity or entities existing outside the realm of physical observation. Under that definition, it is plain that the supernatural realm cannot be quantified or equated through science. If it could be, it would cease to be supernatural – again, under that definition. But suppose that we use another definition: Supernatural: Physical occurrences or states of existence that cannot be reasonably explained through careful scientific observations. If you think about it, for hundreds of years the dark side of the moon fit the parameters of the supernatural under the first definition! We know it exists but we can’t see it. . . . We will use the second definition instead. So we move on to the next question: how can we prove the existence of the supernatural under the second definition? Or, more appropriately, can we? According to logic, the answer is yes: A. “Physical evidence inexplicable by randomly occurring natural processes” exists. B. All “Physical evidence that randomly occurring natural processes cannot reasonably explain” is all “the supernatural.” :. “The supernatural” exists. So if we can find “evidence that randomly occurring natural processes do not explain” (premise A), we have evidence for the supernatural! “The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.” -Robert R. Coveyou In order for an event to occur by chance, it must be mathematically possible. It is an accepted scientific maxim that the mathematical level of absolute impossibility is 1 chance in “1080+1”. Not just a mathematical rarity. Anything above that number is an absolute impossibility. Why? Physicists estimate that there are 1080 atoms in the entire universe. A chance of 1 in 1080 is like picking a predetermined atom at random perfectly the first time. If you had 10 billion chances per second, it would still take 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times the assumed evolutionary age of the universe before you could get it right. The claim that anything less than 1 in 1080 is like saying that 2+2=1. So what are the chances of life forming by random chance processes? The famous atheist Sir Fred Hoyle calculated that the chances of the DNA of the simplest known living cell assembling by chance, with all the necessary ingredients already there, is (are you ready): 1 chance in 1040000 The standard evolutionary rebuttal for this is that these experiments assumed only one type of life was possible. With all the ways life might assemble, who knows how many different chances we might have! If there are an infinite number of ways life could be made up, then a number like 1040000 is really no trouble at all. But such arguments ignore everything we know about information. The simplest cells do just a few things: ingest raw material, build proteins out of the raw material, and build DNA and cell mechanisms out of the proteins. But no matter what form of life, DNA, or information is used, the level of information for a set of specific tasks remains the same. Remember, Hoyle’s calculations assumed all necessary ingredients were already there. The only thing lacking was information. 1040000 different characteristics of specific information. And do not bore me by claiming that a less complex life form exists that is easy to make, reproduce, and subsequently use to harness natural selection and mutation. If there is, then show me! If not, the origin of life is a phenomenon that clearly fits the definition of “Physical evidence inexplicable by randomly occurring natural processes”. And remember: A. “Physical evidence inexplicable by randomly occurring natural processes” exists. B. All “Physical evidence that randomly occurring natural processes cannot reasonably explain” is all “the supernatural.” :. “The supernatural” exists. God is real, folks. And we have all violated His laws. The question is: what are you going to do about it? In Him, David S. MacMillan III

5 comments:

Seanny McShawn said...

Interesting, certainly, but I would begin by disagreeing with your definitions of the supernatural.

The Webster's dictionary uses a similar definition, but takes it an important step further:

1 : 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
2 a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature b : attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit)


In other words, the supernatural relates directly to a god, or to some deviation from the laws of nature. Our current inability to provide an explanation for something does not make it supernatural, merely unexplained. Your moon analogy is flawed because if one were to have found a way to physically travel to the dark side of the moon 400 years ago, it would still be observable. An invisible ghost, angel, or deity, would remain undetectable no matter how anyone approached it. The difference, I think, is that, given the acquired scientific knowledge at the time, the only conceived explanation was a supernatural one, whereas a god, ghost, or miracle is supernatural by its very nature. That is to say that they would defy the laws of nature simply by existing. By extension, your "speed limit" comparison doesn't work either, since the supernatural, as we define it, is a clear break from natural law rather than an extension of it. Why are all of the ID/Creationist arguments that I've come across bogged down by really poor analogies?

In any case, if we can find “evidence that randomly occurring natural processes do not explain” (premise A), we only have evidence for the mysterious or the unexplained. Therefore, your argument

A. “Physical evidence inexplicable by randomly occurring natural processes” exists.
B. All “Physical evidence that randomly occurring natural processes cannot reasonably explain” is all “the supernatural.”
:. “The supernatural” exists.


only works if the supernatural is synonymous with the unexplained. But then, I think, it would not imply the things you want it to.

1 chance in 1040000

Aren't you really just arguing from incredulity here? Is it really just a matter of pure chance, like "a solar system full of blind men solving Rubik's Cube simultaneously", as Hoyle put it? Aren't you setting up a bit of a straw-man defense here? After all, Hoyle's theories are by no means universally accepted throughout the scientific community. Seems to me that there are many other scientific ideas out there that explain the situation better than as a galactic coin-toss and that don't agree with with the ID perspective. Why does this one, alone, largely rejected by biologists, clinch it?

I can't tell if the universe was designed or not, or if the supernatural really does exist, but your approach leaves too many options unexplored, too many leaves unturned, and comes to conclusions far too quickly for me to be swayed by any of it. It seems irresponsible to argue the existence of one side based on a perceived lack of evidence for another.

Anonymous said...

S McS said...
"I can't tell if the universe was designed or not"

The computer you are currently working was designed by highly-skilled hardware and software engineers. It is considerably less complex than the universe. Yet you say you "can't tell if the universe was designed or not"? How can that be?

Bob

Seanny McShawn said...

The computer you are currently working was designed by highly-skilled hardware and software engineers. It is considerably less complex than the universe. Yet you say you "can't tell if the universe was designed or not"? How can that be?

Becaue the logo on my computer says "Dell." Also, I purchased it online from Dell (rather than planting it from seed and digging it out of the ground) and they shipped it to my house.

In fact, I've already answered this same conundrum regarding a computer versus the human cardiac system here. The answer was that a computer is man-made, while you're suggesting that the universe is God-made. The two cannot be compared in such a fashion, since the signs of something that has been created by a person are not the same as something purportedly created by a god. After all, how do we tell if something is man-made or not without looking for the label attached to it? We know a swing-set was designed because it doesn't occur naturally. We know a computer was designed because they certainly don't grow on trees either. But what about the universe? What do we have to compare that to?

No, the notion complexity always implies design simply does. not. work.

Anonymous said...

The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows forth His handiwork. The Word of God says He created the heavens and the earth *in the very first verse.* The law of God is written on your heart. You are without excuse. You will have to face your Creator whether or not you believe in Him. If you continue to ignore Him and proclaim your own goodness, I am afraid for you. PLEASE consider these words because your eternity is at stake.

Bob

Seanny McShawn said...

Thanks for the concern, Bob, but like I told David: Don't worry about me, I'll be fine.

The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows forth His handiwork. The Word of God says He created the heavens and the earth *in the very first verse.* The law of God is written on your heart. You are without excuse.

That's touching, but ultimately unconvincing to anyone that doesn't agree with you. It's lovely the the Bible says that your god created the universe, but unless you plan to provide some other argument for the accuracy of the Bible besides that it is your god's word, you might as well give me up as a lost cause.

I'm not ignoring anything. The only way I can see of seeing or experiencing any of the evidences you claim exist is by already believing in the existence of a god to begin with. What kind of proof is it if it's only convincing to the converted? It comes off more like a juvenile form of gloating than anything else. If you can't understand what it's like to question the existence of your god, how can you hope to provide any kind of reasonable argument for those of us that already do?