Can the “supernatural” be of any use?

This xkcd cartoon is so true (Thanks to xkcd: The Economic Argument).

1: There is a special relationship between scientific knowledge and the real world. Scientific ideas are based on evidence from reality, they get tested and validated against reality. And they get tossed out if found wrong.

So it’s not surprising that scientific knowledge gets incorporated into things that are useful.

2: Just shows how silly all this talk of science being blinkered becuase it “excludes supernaturalism” is. If this term has any meaning in the real world it just means something that is counter-intuitive or hasn’t been explained.  Science is full of such ideas so it is dishonest to claim it is blinkered. What could be more weird or non-intuitive than “spooky action at a distance.”

No, when these proponents of “other ways of knowing” etc., attack science they are trying to remove the requirement of evidence and testing against reality. That’s what they mean by their code word “supernatural.”

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10 responses to “Can the “supernatural” be of any use?

  1. Spiritual beliefs and practices are a normal part of human culture. The fact they aren’t always backed by peer reviewed double blind studies does not negate their value and meaning to the participants. I imagine you’re a real drag at Christmas


  2. Sure, spiritual beliefs and practices and superstitions are a normal part of human culture. All sorts of things are.

    And some people (not all) get some comfort and satisfaction from all sorts of weird beliefs.

    But the supernatural is no help in understanding reality. As that table shows.

    AS for me and Christmas – my granddaughters were so keen to see me last Christmas they were waiting on the footpath! Maybe it had something to do with the present opening being dependent on our presence!

    Our families really enjoy Christmas but there is no religious or supernatural significance for any of us.

    Imagine what you will but here again your imagination has failed you.


  3. Spiritual beliefs and practices are a normal part of human culture

    Yep, normal.
    Superstition is normal.
    So is apophenia. That’s normal too.
    Poor critical thinking skills. Normal.
    Lots of things in human society are normal.
    Normal does not mean that they are good and should be just passively accepted.
    Education is the key.

    The fact they aren’t always backed by peer reviewed double blind studies does not negate their value and meaning to the participants.

    Value? Meaning?
    What value and meaning can there really be in delusion?
    Facing the truth is more noble that irrational belief.

    Slaves to Super-stition (4/5) – Richard Dawkins


  4. maybe if you knew what supernatural is you would be able to answer. So far you have not talked aout. All you’ve talked about is the atheist straw version of it.


  5. Metacrock – what about helping me out.

    As a scientist I keep confronting this charge about not including the supernatural. But no-one explains what they mean by the word.

    So perhaps you can do that. Tell me what you mean by the word “supernatural”? (After all you claim my version is an “atheist straw man – so you must have your own concept.).

    And how can science include the “supernatural.”?


  6. It doesn’t bother me if you exclude the supernatural from your life and dismiss it as nonsense. There is a vast wealth of human experience beyond the austere lens of science. But your dream of co-opting science in small-minded campaign for “reality” is the very definition of scientism.


  7. It is sad that it comes down to how much money is made – says a lot about the world view that generated the cartoon.


  8. But Marty, you miss the point. This table is just showing that some weird ideas can be commercialized because they are real. It is an indicator that despite their weirdness they correspond to reality.

    Other weird ideas can’t be commercialized because they are false. They don’t correspond to reality.

    Yet some people swear by them. They are fooled.


  9. Ken there are plenty of weird ideas within science that won’t or perhaps can’t be commercialised and that doesn’t diminish their weirdness, their value, or their realness. The cartoon cherry picked to make its point.

    “Other weird ideas can’t be commercialized because they are false. They don’t correspond to reality.”

    Couldn’t it be that they simply can’t be commercialized, not because they are false and don’t correspond to reality but, because they can’t be commercialized – I don’t agree that that measure really measures anything and it seems false anyway – i see plenty of people making money off all sorts of things that are weirder than weird.


  10. Marty, the cartoon is a cartoon – not an academic treatise. So of course it’s silly to take it completely literally. But it does have an excellent message.

    However, my point is that some things are accepted scientifically as representing reality because of their evidential basis and verification against reality. Other things may be popular but don’t pass that test. They don’t correspond to reality. Despite the wishes of their proponents.

    Those proponents often claim science is not open minded. That is of course a straw man as the cartoon shows. Reality is counter intuitive so science has to be open minded to investigate reality. But it doesn’t ignore evidence.


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