The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: The words "natural" and "supernatural" means nothing.  (Read 2226 times)

Offline Martin J Sallberg

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 86
    • View Profile
Considering that "appeal to nature" is a fallacy and that everything is technically natural, then the word "natural" is not contrastable to anything, and thus unnecessary to use. It also means that all negations of it, such as "unnatural" and "supernatural" is also flattis vocis.

This means that terminology such as "natural explanation" and "supernatural claims" means plain nothing. So "searching for natural explanations" and "scepticism towards supernatural claims" is exactly the same logical fallacy as "appeal to nature". After all, anything that somehow interacts with ordinary matter is scientifically measurable. There is no reason to classify phenomena based on historical contingency of their status.
« Last Edit: 15/05/2013 06:57:43 by Martin J Sallberg »


 

Offline graham.d

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 2208
    • View Profile
Re: The words "natural" and "supernatural" means nothing.
« Reply #1 on: 15/05/2013 09:16:53 »
I think you are choosing a narrow meaning of the word natural. There are many shades of meaning that are useful to use within the English language...

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/natural

gives examples.

With the particular meaning you are attributing you may be right. If everything is natural then the word unnatural cannot be applied to anything. Another example of this is the use of the word "selfish". In a very strict meaning everyone is selfish (by definition) which makes the use of the word redundant. So Mother Teresa was selfish because she was helping poor people merely to please her own desires to feel better about her actions and to satisfy herself that she was acting in a way to put her in a way to please her God. It is not a generally useful interprertation of the word's meaning though.
 

Offline David Cooper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 1505
    • View Profile
Re: The words "natural" and "supernatural" means nothing.
« Reply #2 on: 15/05/2013 18:36:08 »
The word "natural" can be contrasted usefully with the word "artificial", though the latter is actually a subset of the former. The words "supernatural" and "natural" could have a similar relationship, with the latter being those things made by a god, but then it's real meaning would be "artificial" while the real meaning of "supernatural" would become "natural".

Another possible meaning of "supernatural" is "magic" - something that works without any rational mechanism, and if you explore this you can disprove God with it: if he has no magical aspects, he can become a scientist and understand himself as a natural being, thereby disqualifying himself from being God, whereas if he has magical components, he is incapable of understanding how he works, in which case he is again disqualified.

There can be no such thing as the supernatural or magic other than as a description of something imaginary that cannot be, or as an incorrect description of something that isn't understood.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 1092
  • Thanked: 11 times
    • View Profile
Re: The words "natural" and "supernatural" means nothing.
« Reply #3 on: 15/05/2013 22:44:37 »
The word 'natural' is usually used to mean 'in accordance with well established physical laws' and supernatural is anything that is unproven.

If a claim of something supernatural was actually demonstrated, then it would (soon) become natural once somebody had worked out the principles involved; but NOT before.

So the term definitely means something.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Re: The words "natural" and "supernatural" means nothing.
« Reply #3 on: 15/05/2013 22:44:37 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums