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Your Deceptive Mind Part 14: “Science and the Supernatural”


By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents the 24-part Great Courses series, Your Deceptive Mind Part 14: “Science and the Supernatural,” Thursday, September 20, 5:30pm, Meditation Center, Callejon Blanco 4.

This lecture will explore the differences between philosophical and methodological naturalism and what is meant by the term supernatural. Are there such things as miracles, and can science ever answer such questions? What is or should be the relationship between science and religion? Progress is a more telling feature of science than the fact that at any given time there are anomalies we can’t explain. There are always going to be anomalies, until science has explained everything about the universe.

Science is dependent upon methodological naturalism, which holds that material effects must have material causes. This is not an arbitrary choice, as some may claim. The methods of science do not work without this underlying basis. Nonmaterial causes cannot be falsified; therefore, they fail to meet a necessary criterion for science. They can’t be falsified because they can’t be constrained in any way. They do not follow the laws of nature, of material cause and effect.

An example of a claim that cannot be falsified would be the notion that life is the result of creation, that it was created recently but made to look as if it were ancient. We could argue that the world was created five minutes ago. Such notions are not falsifiable in the way they are constructed, so therefore, they are not science. A belief that the creator is an entity, by definition, is not constrained in any way scientifically. The creator could potentially, therefore, have created life to look like anything, even as if it had evolved. Any observation of the world is compatible with creation, is not falsifiable, is not science.

Philosophers have wrangled with this idea of the relationship between supernaturalism and scientific methodology for centuries. Bertrand Russell made the point that the burden of proof for any scientific claim lies with those making the claim. The inability to prove something false is not sufficient justification for the claim.

The course is presented by Steven Novella, MD, Academic Neurologist, Yale School of Medicine. He is host and producer of the award-winning podcast, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. He writes a regular column for Skeptical Inquirer. He maintains a personal blog, NeuroLogica Blog, covering news and issues in neuroscience, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr Novella is the founder and senior editor of Science-Based Medicine, a group medical and health blog.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


Video Presentation

Your Deceptive Mind: Part 14: “Science and the Supernatural”

Thu, Sep 20, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejon Blanco 4

Free, donations accepted

044 415 156 1950


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