Saturday, August 27, 2016

What Does it Mean to be Supernatural?

What was once a reasonable hypothesis has become an epistemological trash heap. And, if something "points beyond itself" does anyone know where it is pointing?

After having exhausted the possibilities of "discernment" as a theological buzzword, philosophical believers have moved on to a new expression, that anything real "points beyond itself" to whatever they think animates the world's workings beneath the surface. Which is to say, god. It is an empty expression, reflecting an indoctrinated mindset more than an analysis of anything outside the theological system.

This is not to say that there are not hidden realities that we have inferred with some, even great, warrant. We have a universe flooded with neutrinos which we can only barely detect. There is dark enery and dark matter that eludes any detection at all, but still is inferred to be there. And the origin of the universe itself is far from being explained.

Back in the day, before humanity discovered evolution, electricity, atoms, uniform force fields, and all the other apparatus by which so much of reality is now reasonably and mechanically explained, the sheer number of wonders in the world that required explanation was truly prodigious. Invoking magic, in the form of heroic or father-beings, was reasonable enough, though already faintly ridiculous. Some ancient philosophers may have dabbled in atomic theory and evolution-like ideas, but even they had hardly more going for their theories, in actual content, observation, and detail, than the mythicists did.

A trinity, with cherubim. A theory of reality, or something else entirely?

Now things are quite different, and it is significant to note that in the intervening time, none of the newly found mechanisms of reality have had anything to do with gods or other supernatural mechanisms. Plenty of odd things have been found, but none with any theological character. So the batting average of what was, a priori, an attractive hypothesis, is now zero, with a lot of scientific "discernment" under our belts. Yet theological theorists and believers press on with their trinities, spirits, and gods, invoking supernatural realms of which our puny science knows nothing.

A more modern trinity, participating in another archetypal savior story.

But what does it mean to be supernatural? Nothing positive, that's for sure. It is void of knowledge filled with whatever is unknown or imagined, yet for which reasonable, testable models of reality have no place. A place for the archetypal father-gods, the prayers that don't work, the grace and hope that saves one person in an airplane crash while killing all the others, the creator who nudges evolution to make one being in god's image- us. How obvious. Yet human psychology is so reliable and flawed, and the slick supernatural dreams of theology so well-honed over the millennia, that people skilled in the arts of pursuasion and confidence gain converts still at this very late date.

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