12/12/2010 | Share this article: View CommentsBy WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
If we want to understand the universe, we must begin by throwing out the supernatural and miracles as explanations for anything.
Image by Zedzap via FlickrIn ancient times, man routinely injected gods and spirits into nature. There were gods of the wind, rain, thunder, lightning, disease, crop growth and virtually everything else that existed. “God did it,” or “spirits did it,” were acceptable explanations for pretty much anything and everything that happened on the earth or in the sky. It’s likely that the earliest few discoveries of how things really worked, by natural means, were accidental, leading to a very slow accumulation of “scientific” knowledge.
Over time, a few people came to suspect that much, much more could be explained about our universe without recourse to the supernatural, and so they began to look for those explanations. Those people found repeatable patterns, equations, and successful predictions of natural events which pushed their knowledge of the world farther into the unknown. Over time, man found he could explain wind, rain, thunder, lightning, disease, crop growth and thousands of other things as nothing more than natural phenomena. True science arrived when man routinely sought to explain all phenomena without recourse to the supernatural.
There was an obvious pattern here, an unmistakable trend. The more man studied nature, the more things he could explain as purely natural, and fewer and fewer things retained their supernatural “explanations.” This is sometimes termed the “god of the gaps.” God and other supernatural entities were pushed into smaller and smaller spaces as they were found to be, more and more, unnecessary for explaining how the world works. This effort eventually led to a functional understanding of the very basic building blocks of the universe; the subatomic particles and forces, gravity, and space-time.
Man’s understanding of and control over nature (limited though they may yet be) has depended entirely on his insistence that all that happens in nature be explained as natural phenomena.
If a god or other spirits “did it,” then there was no need to look any further for causes. If we viewed everything that ever defied explanation as supernatural, the true natural causes of phenomena would never have been discovered.The trend is obvious, instructive, and extremely important; over the past few hundred years, more and more things, thousands and thousands of them, have come to be explained as purely natural phenomena. Yet, in all this time, not one single thing that was once explained by natural forces has since been found to require a supernatural explanation. Not one!
History shows that once science discarded all consideration of supernatural phenomena, the pace of scientific progress quickened enormously. But the essential point to understand is that nothing but the simplest science could ever have succeeded so long as supernatural forces were allowed as possible explanations. If a god or other spirits “did it,” then there was no need to look any further for causes. If we viewed everything that ever defied explanation as supernatural, the true natural causes of phenomena would never have been discovered.
So, while the scientific establishment has been quite successful at disqualifying any and all supernatural explanations, and making great progress as a result, most of our modern societies have been very slow to do the same in our ethics, and we suffer for it. The supernatural still plays a huge part in fashioning our ethical and moral landscapes.
Our understanding of how the world really works has grown in inverse proportion to our dependence on the supernatural, yet the majority of us continue to insist that our moral landscapes be dependent on supernatural considerations. In effect, that majority tells us that we must please a supernatural god (or some ancients’ idea of a god) rather than ourselves. As a result, many of them insist that abortion, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, premarital sex, euthanasia, even masturbation, and dozens of other things are “sins,” and must be resisted at all costs. Perhaps worse, all the major religious books insist that followers of other gods or other religions are “sinful.”
It seems the majority are unable to learn from the history of science. The clear lesson of that history is that progress depends on eliminating the supernatural as an explanation of anything. There is a huge amount of evidence that there are no supernatural forces at work in the world, as no clear evidence for any supernatural force has ever been found.
Continuing to base our ethical and moral lives on this fiction, this “god of the gaps,” leaves humanity in a very dangerous situation. Remember, the people of Salem, Massachusetts weren’t inherently any less moral than we are; they thought they were doing the right thing in killing “witches.” We have enormous power through our science, but we are very primitive, like children, in our ethical and moral development, because we still depend on supernatural explanations. It’s a bit like a group of five year-olds running around loose in a nuclear missile silo.
If we are to survive as a species, we need to start growing up in a hurry. This means disqualifying all supernatural explanations for anything – unless and until something, just one thing, can be proven conclusively to truly require a supernatural explanation.
So, I throw down a challenge; show me one thing in this universe that REQUIRES a supernatural explanation. But you have to PROVE it!