Natural-Supernatural

by Robert Wheeler

We all want our daily activities and our life in general to be comfortable, manageable, and meaningful. To have this we need to feel that we can influence important things, that things have some predictability and explanation. We live in a cause and effect environment, and we have an innate need for an explanation that provides cause for our major activities. Why do we need both natural and supernatural explanations?

                At one time the explanation of causes was quite limited. I knew that sunshine caused my body to get warm; but what caused the sun to be there in the first place?  The warmth had a natural cause, however the sun’s presence was a mystery. Either because of my discomfort from that mystery or because of some insight, I accepted a supernatural explanation. The use of a supernatural explanation to alleviate the mystery is called “God-of-the-gaps.” The use of insight was called “revelation.” Thus began religion and belief in supernatural causes. As objective knowledge revealed the sunrise to be a natural terrestrial event, a supernatural force pushing up the sun was abandoned and the God-of-the-gaps was questioned. This conundrum exists today.

                Today, natural explanations are available for most phenomena until we marvel about the intricacies of life (such as child-birth) or wonder about what is out there beyond our or science’s vision. Although theories exist, objective information (science) cannot explain why we are here or where we came from, but supernatural explanations are available. Faith in a supernatural agent has many benefits: not only explanation for our ultimate concerns, but also connections with other people of similar faith. This is the basis for religions with their social organizations that provide material and spiritual support, belongingness, forgiveness, emotional uplift, immortality, and positive regard.

                There is a hazy line between naturalism and supernaturalism. Naturalism is defined as the doctrine that physical laws are adequate to account for all phenomena. Supernaturalism is defined as belief in a supernatural power and order of existence. There are many other definitions for naturalism, supernaturalism, natural, and supernatural however the ones used here reflect the issue of validly explaining ultimate questions with scientific information or by non-scientific insight. Science now has the ability to look out in space far enough to reveal nebulous phenomena that can only be explained as multiverse, many worlds, or alternate realities that are beyond physical nature and may even be supernatural. Likewise science has now been able to look far enough into the atom to see nebulous forces or fields that are beyond material nature and may be supernatural. Some knowledgeable people say that if the concept of a deity is thus supported, it would be part of nature.

                Some knowledgeable people say that these new findings can only be explained as a reality not bounded by our laws of physics, an alternate or transcendent reality that may contain deity. So, the line between naturalism and supernaturalism is obscure and both may be valid for answering ultimate questions about existence.  Anything is possible, but we have to live in the world as it presents itself to us. Reliable explanations are available for most daily experience providing sensible cause for daily activities, and a supernatural deity can provide a sensible cause for ultimate concerns.