How to know if something is supernatural

Sean from Cosmic Variance has some interesting thoughts on what makes something “supernatural” and whether science is qualified to study such things. He divides out three categories:

  1. The silent: things that have absolutely no effect on anything that happens in the world.
  2. The hidden: things that affect the world only indirectly, without being immediately observable themselves.
  3. The lawless: things that affect the world in ways that are observable (directly or otherwise), but not subject to the regularities of natural law.

There is literally nothing to say about stuff that would be categorized as silent. They affect nothing and so are unobservable and uninteresting. So that’s a category that’s off-limits to science.

The example Sean gives for stuff that’s categorized as the hidden is dark matter. It fits the definition perfectly. In fact, the only reason we have the concept of dark matter is because its effects — but not it — have been observed. We don’t know anything about dark matter other than what we’ve seen it do to other, directly observable, things. Yet, dark matter is definitely science. Which is to say, science can conclude facts about dark matter.

Finally, the lawless: stuff that’s observable, but that you can’t say anything about. But wait… can’t I say that “I can’t say anything about it”? Can there ever be something that you truly can’t say anything about?

Sean hypothesizes about how scientists would react to more evidence of a truly lawless and supernatural force. Basically, he thinks scientists would be able to accept some God-like entity that broke all the rules — given enough evidence. I think the scientists would be thrilled with such a compelling mystery to try and solve.

UPDATE: On re-reading, I see that I’ve contradicted my point about the silent with my point about the lawless. There’s one thing you can say about the silent. They’re silent. Except, I think the crucial difference between the silent and the lawless is that you can’t even know the silent exists. So by definition, if something that’s lawless isn’t silent, there’s more you can say about it than something that’s silent.

Via The Morning News.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 26, 2016 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    It’s actually a cool and useful piece of info. I’m satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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