free debate

July 15, 2009

What is Science? (Natural Explanations)

I have heard a lot of people criticize science because science only allows for natural (and not supernatural) explanations for the universe. This is worth exploring because it used so often, and shows a real misunderstanding for the fundamentals of science.

I think the first misunderstanding is in the use of the word natural. Science is a process of exploring our universe. Our universe, by definition, is everything we can see, detect, or otherwise infer based on evidence. If something exists completely outside our universe we, by definition, cannot explain it using science. You can also think of this another way. Psychic phenomena are considered supernatural because no good scientific evidence has been brought forward to show it exists. If such evidence were brought forward (and replicated) psychic phenomena would become part of the natural world (and no longer supernatural).

The other reason scientists don’t allow supernatural explanations is one of practicality. For thousands of years when a question was raised about the natural world, the answer was always “it’s because of God/the Gods.” This answer is a dead end (and un-falsifiable, which I will talk more about later). In science, saying the flying spaghetti monster did it just doesn’t cut it. In science, we demand explanations based on evidence that will allow us to move forward. The best answers in science have lots of evidence to support them, and generate lots of new questions.