There is an objection, concern, or question which is a fairly common idea. In fact, it’s one that I myself have asked. For some it may be a genuine concern and for others it may simply be a way to put up a smokescreen so they don’t have to deal with the evidence for the existence of God, existence of a supernatural realm, and so on.
Is that which is unseen or not within the scope of our senses testable and knowable? Some philosophers have believed that only that which is gained by the senses is knowable. Some have said only that which is gained by science is knowable. Both of these positions are respectfully called empiricism and scientism. Both have pervaded our culture and in some ways have shaped how we perceive our world.
I want to discuss whether we can access things which are unseen or even cannot be accessed by our senses. Two questions that are raised which are relevant would be the following: Could we test and gain knowledge about the supernatural? Can we test and gain knowledge about God?
My answer, of course, would be that we can test these things and gain knowledge about them. Let me give some examples to demonstrate how.
Let’s say you find a painting in the middle of the woods. How do you know what created it? You didn’t see the painter make it. Nor did anyone tell you. Why would you think a person made it?
Do you believe that the law of gravity exists? Or even that gravity exists? Can we see, hear, taste, touch, smell gravity? Nope. So why do we believe it exists?
Have scientists posited the existence of electron by seeing, tasting, hearing, touching, or smelling an electron? No way. So why did they think that electrons exist?
Do you think that a person wrote this blog post based upon your seeing, tasting, hearing, touching, or smelling that person? Nope. So why do you think that a person whom you’ve (perhaps) never had direct contact with did in fact write this?
So why is it we can figure these things out? Well, we can test something indirectly by it’s effects. Why do we believe electrons and gravity exists? Not because we have direct access to those entities, but because we have seen or can test their effects.
Why do you believe that a human being wrote this post? Not because you’ve seen that person write this, but because you’ve seen the effect of that persons actions.
Some may use the term explanatory power to refer to this idea. We can infer the existence of something, and even additional information about that thing, from it’s effects. We can say that gravity exists because it has explanatory power – it explains the effects we can see or experience.
So how does this apply to the area of the supernatural? Well that would depend on how one defines the supernatural. One may simply define it as “a realm of reality which is usually empirically inaccessible to us.” I won’t discuss this question further, since I plan on addressing it with a specific evidence in the future, but this may provoke some further thinking for some.
But how about God? Aside from God’s own direct intervening, if we can’t see, taste, touch, smell, or hear Him, then how can we know about Him? Well, one of those ways is the method just discussed. Are there effects of God which are accessible to us? Does God have explanatory power concerning certain entities or events?
My current series on adjudicating world-views address a very basic answer to these questions, but I’ll provide just a few points (of many) where I think God does have explanatory power for certain features of our reality:
The existence of something at all – rather than nothing.
The existence of the universe.
The existence of moral truths/absolutes.
The existence of conscious beings.
The existence of the laws of nature.
The order of and in the universe.
The existence of logic and the rules/order of logic.