Measuring The Supernatural: How can we know for sure that what appears to be a supernatural event isn't just a rare or unknown physical effect?


Measuring The Supernatural: How can we know for sure that what appears to be a supernatural event isn’t just a rare or unknown physical effect?

For example, i like the accounts of Padre Pio’s stigmata. But how can we be certain there isn’t a physical cause behind this phenomena? Or is it just something that must be taken on faith?


As far as literal 100.00% certainty goes: you don’t. I’m not literally 100.00% certain that there isn’t a monster under my bed who becomes imperceptible the instant I look to see if anything is there. I know beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no monster under my bed.

There is zero explanation in medicine for a guy having blood gush out of the palms of his hands in the manner of somebody having nails pounded through them. The event goes beyond a reasonable doubt, but it is a private sign that affected a particular holy man chosen by God for a specific mission. There’s plenty of atheists/agonistics/apatheists in the world and they usually dismiss such stories and assume it was either something unexplained, misunderstood, or that it was a highly intricate fraud, or some combination of them all.


I think this is a good example of how such stories become embellished.

A man has some marks on his hands. They are described as wounds. They bleed. Now, as above, ‘blood gushes out of his palms’.

I’m sure that TK has no intention of bending the truth. But this is common when passing on a story. It starts to get a life of its own, especially if those telling it either really want it to be true or want others to believe it to be true. Each step is not unreasonable, but we can see where it goes.

The man was quite ill. Jesus spoke to him for a while and blessed him. And a few days later he was a lot better.
This guy was really sick.
This guy was on death’s door.
I heard that this guy was practically dead.
This man told me he was, to all intents and purposes, dead.
This dead guy…
I have it on good authority that Jesus laid His hands on this dead man and brought him back to life.


Yeah you’re right @Bradskii Jesus never worked any miracles. Let’s just ignore the fact that, despite being hostile to Christians, both Jewish and Roman historians record that he was a miracle worker.


I would offer the idea that if something happens at all, it is by virtue of the fact that it happens, natural. Therefore there is no supernatural. If you prove that ghosts exist, they are then naturally occurring. If you find a unicorn or Bigfoot, then Bigfoot is natural, because it happens. Same goes for things like stigmata. It is not that they are supernatural. Rather, the problem is that we improperly label things supernatural when we don’t understand them. And we are taught by society to deny the existence of anything that goes against a materialist reductionist mindset. If people really do get stigmata, then stigmata is natural. Unusual, but natural. When we see things we don’t understand, we need to learn to stop denying what we see, and simply come to terms with the idea that there is a lot we don;t understand.


Maybe you are missing the point. I am suggesting that stories become embellished very quickly indeed. Even with no intention to do so. That must always be taken into consideration. It doesn’t mean that any given story is untrue. But the longer there is between an event and it being recorded and the more people there are passing on information about that event, then the less reliable is the record of that event.

If I tell someone that an Italian priest had stigmata from which blood would actually gush, would I be accurate in recording the version of the matter found in the post above?

TK was not lying. He just used a term that expanded on what he’d read. I’m just passing on that information. And if the person I passed it onto said ‘a priest had stigmata that were always gushing blood’, then pretty soon, when this info is passed down the line a few more times, we’re going to get something like the final scene from ‘Carrie’ with blood spraying the walls.


Stories can become embellished in an environment without proper checks to said embellishment. However not all stories are embellished, as I’m sure you’d admit.

In the case of Jesus, hostile eye witnesses to his life and death serve as the check to embellishment. If Jesus did not raise Lazarus from the dead, for example, why didn’t the Jewish leaders publish a tract that said ‘nope, that’s not true; Jesus didn’t do that’? Why not publish an ‘anti-gospel’ dispelling the embellishments found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? That would be the natural thing to do, no?


Therein lies the topic for another thread, I’m sure. But I took Jesus healing someone as a random example to show how other stories, as well as the one about Pio, can change. And we have seen just in this thread how that story becomes inadvertently exagerated in just one telling. A mark on the hand that may have ocassionaly bled to stigmata that gushed blood.

Does that not serve as a good example?

Incidentally, Lazarus is from John’s gospel which almost everyone agrees was written for theological reasons and not historical ones. And written decades after Jesus was crucified. It’s not as if someone posted a report on a Judaic version of Wikipaedia at the time of the event and people were able to refute it immediately.

Notwithstanding the fact that there was one copy written originally in Ephesus in Turkey, hundreds of kilometres from the source of the story. Do you think that the great grandsons of those present in Bethany kept tabs on what was written a world away by an anonymous author to make sure it didn’t contradict what their great grandparents had or had not seen?


Even if there is a physical cause, it’s so rare that I wonder whether there is a supernatural input.
It’s like winning the lottery. Whilst yes someone has to win, why him? Why not me?

Science can answer what questions. Science can never answer why questions.


False thinking. Scientists and other experts can be brought in to examine the evidence. There is a God. The supernatural does exist. And real evil does exist.


As opposed to…? Fake evil?

And scientists? Gee, we thought you didn’t trust them. I’m sure we could find a few quotes to back that up.

Oh, sorry. You meant scientists that would agree with you. My bad.


Maybe there is a way to verify?

Find the records of people who had unlikely, almost zero-percent-chance-of-healing healings.
Then break them down into whether or not their conditions were attempted to be treated medically or left untreated.
And factor in whether prayer, or placement of relics to the person, or other religious practices were applied and then compare the groups.

Or in the case of stigmata, are there cases of this phenomenon happening in non-Christians?

Maybe there’s a flaw in this idea—I haven’t totally thought it through or e planned it well.


If God can create the heavens and the Earth, he has the power to control what ends up in the Bible, it is not important as to who the authors may be. The Bible I read today is the Bible that God intends me to read, it is enough for our salvation. This is our faith.


I don’t think that a miracle ever involves a suspension of laws. I have always thought of a miracle (healing and such) as essentially involving a rearrangement of matter due to an intelligent influence. For example when Jesus multiplied the fish and the bread to feed everyone, i see that event as involving a rearrangement of atoms into what we understand as bread and fish. A miracle to me, just means that God is the cause. It does not mean that God has suspended physical laws. One day we two will be able to rearrange atoms into what ever we want using technology.


No finger, just a bladder


And parts of the bible are there for historical reasons and some for theological reasons. It’s your call to differentiate the two.


I believe the first sentence in the Bible is an absolute truth, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth. Because God can create the universe, every other miracle is minor by comparison, raising the dead, virgin births, talking snakes etc. This is my faith without any final proof.


Jesus created loaves and fishes out of nothing. He raised the dead.


Do you believe everything in the bible to be literally true?


I believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth. The truth is either yes he did, or there is no god. The truth for me is yes God did.

I believe God created Adam from the dust of the ground; and God the Father is the common ancestor to all species. The hows and the whys in the Bible can be a struggle to understand and take literally.

The Bible influences the lives of billions of believers and takes us on a lifelong journey towards God.

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