The Problem with Supernaturalism as it relates to Observing a God

GeneralRamos's picture

A Pentecostal I've been talking to over MySpace told me that he had physically heard God. This raised a point that I had never really thought about, concerning the supernatural and our capability of interacting with it. I'm going to discuss our means of observing the world around us, and how it is incompatible with measuring and/or observing the supernatural world, removing the possibility for interaction between the two.
Firstly, let’s talk about what the supernatural is and isn’t. The supernatural is “of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal” ( So, basically, the supernatural is anything that is beyond nature. Seems pretty basic. Super – beyond, nature – nature.
So what isn’t supernatural? Everything we know of. Everything that exists is natural. So this brings up the often-raised argument that the supernatural doesn’t exist, and it is quite possible, and I think likely, that it doesn’t exist at all. However, that’s not the argument I’m trying to make here today. It’s that even if it does exist our there somewhere, we have no way of knowing that it does, and so it is irrelevant.
There is no way that we could sense the supernatural, if it indeed does exist, because our senses are dependent upon then natural. Our senses are merely responses to physical stimuli in our environment. When you feel, it is the result of a response sent through nerve endings just below the skin and then interpreted by the brain. Smell is the detection of molecules (mostly from organic compounds that easily break apart) by receptors in the nose that are meant to detect the presence of a certain compound and interpret it in the brain. Taste is a similar response through taste buds on the tongue. The ears ‘hear’ vibrations in the air vibrating the eardrum and then interpret these waves as a sound. Sight is the response of light-sensitive cells on the retina detecting the amounts of light and putting these pieces of information into an image in the brain. So basically, every sense we have is a response to physical stimuli that are then interpreted in the brain.
Continuing from this, in science we use other instruments to help extend our senses where our own limitations get in the way. We use devices to measure more of the physical world to detect the things that are too small for us to see, too far to hear, etc. Observation doesn’t require being able to sense it with your own senses, but rather with any tools that do the same as our senses – collect physical information that allows us to interpret what data we’ve gathered.
Now that we’ve established what the supernatural is and how our sense work, we can see that our senses require a physical (and thus, natural) stimuli in order to work. It is therefore an impossibility to detect a supernatural force by means of our senses. Why is this important? Because without being able to sense the supernatural, not a trace of it, we have no backing for any claim that the supernatural exists. Moreover, because people cannot see the supernatural, and would have been even less capable in ancient times, the idea of supernatural beings developed by these people cannot have been based on the senses and reality as we know it.
The ancients would be unable to have heard god, because if god was supernatural and not a part of the physical, natural world. Sounds waves cannot be created without something physically producing the vibrations. Sounds don’t just ‘appear’. When you hear wind, you’re hearing the atoms of gas being shuffled and moved. In a vacuum, where these physical particles can’t collide and jostle, sound doesn’t exist. Without a physical means of radiating the sound waves, they have no means of transmitting. The same goes for the supernatural.
The same argument applies to sight. Without light, there can be no light. Light is produced from physical objects in the natural world. Light is created in reactions as energy is released. Without atoms, there would be no lights. We don’t see light coming from nothing. Without being a physical being, or in other words, of nature rather than supernature, god cannot be seen either. Since less people say that god has physically touched them, and few claim to have tasted or smelled god, I don’t think I need to give specific examples of those
So if we can’t detect the supernatural, how did the ancients come up with it? It’s pretty easy – they lacked an explanation for natural phenomenon and made something to fill the void. It wasn’t based on reality – it was an attempt to fill a void without any evidence as to what the phenomenon was or what really caused it. The god idea is just a carry-over from a time when we had less understanding of the world around us. If there’s no way with which one can prove that god exists through the natural world, the only one we can detect, then nobody could have ever observed this god. Any conception of a god as we know it was therefore thought up by humans. Maybe the supernatural realm exists somehow, and there’s a ‘god’ there. If there is, the probability that he matches up with what we think of as a god is surely very slim. Anyone that tells you he has seen or heard god is either lying or is convinced that something he sense was god. But this is simply an impossibility.