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Can the scientific method be used to determine whether or not the supernatural exists?

Below you'll find part of an exchange I'm engaged in on the Holy Post with somehow going by the handle 'Shibboleth'.  The subject? Can the application of the scientific method to determine the truths of whether or not supernatural forces or beings do exist. I thought you might like comment of the exchange. At the very least, I hope you find it interesting.

Fr. Tim

11:59 AM on June 13, 2010


I have asked some pointed questions and made statements which may have initially made you bristle. The reason I have done so is because of my bias toward scientific methodology.

Sufficiency is a term among many others to ensure a persons claim is tested according to scientific rigueur. Specifically, evidence offered in support of any claim must be adaquate to establish the truth of that claim with:
1) the burden of proof for any claim resting on the claimant
2) extraordinary claims demanding extraordinary evidence, and
3) evidence based upon authority alone as being inadaquate

Considering the claims made by the papacy and the various councils held by your church throughout European history to determine policy, I think my questions and statements have been valid.

Do not take these personally. I will continue to question and make point and counter-point in as civil a manner as possible.


 Shibboleth:  Did you happen to catch the CBC Radio program 'Tapistry' on Sunday? It was a documentary which explored issues that arise when the scientific method and faith intersect.

In it, we hear from a scholar who transitioned from the scientific analysis of Karl Marx, through years of being 'born again' as an evangelical Christian before coming to rest as a secular agnostic. Each step of this journey was fueled by the same categories of inquiry that you set out above. It gave me a great deal to think about and it is worth downloading the podcast from the CBC website.

To address another point, may I ask if you given any credence to the witness of the immediate receivers the gospel they received from the followers of Christ himself? The Church offers as evidence the blood of these first century martyrs. They chose death rather than denying the veracity and accuracy of what they witnessed first hand of the martyrdom of the Apostles and many of their contemporaries. Letters, both within the Canon and the Patristic writings of men like Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch as well from secular sources such the correspondence of Pliny the Younger and Josephus attest to the truth of what we today believe happened 2000 years ago. Surely their accounts must stand as testimony to the truth of the Jesus event. And if someone actually lived, died and was resurrected, that can only be explained by supernatural causes.

Some surmise that it was the scientific ignorance of these early Jews, Greeks, Romans and Africans which resulted in a misinterpretation of events which could be explained by natural reasoning. Given the rudimentary understanding of human physiology at the time, replete with 'humors' and 'evil spirits' offered as a medical diagnosis, they did not recognize the reality of a botched crucifixion. I assert that even if we grant this erroneous reasoning about what vivifies man, they were intimately familiar with what constituted his death. If someone returned to 'life' from 'death', it would be impossible for them to misinterpret. So convinced were they of what they had seen and heard that they thought fidelity to that truth to be more valuable than life. This evidence must be given some place in your calculations as to whether God exists or not.

This stands as evidence in this trial of God you are conducting (for that is   what we are discussing) as the first and strongest evidence for the Christian faith. As an advocate for the defense of the proposition for God's existence, I await your response.

Fr. Tim

Read more:

NOTE: For technical reasons beyond my capacity to solve, I was not able to upload this version to the Holy Post. The arguments contained within this message were used to address specific of Shibboleth's multiple questions.


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