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The Supernatural refers to conscious magical, religious or unknown forces that cannot ordinarily be perceived except through their effects. This word is often used interchangeably with preternatural or paranormal. Unlike natural forces, these putative supernatural forces can not be shown to exist by the scientific method. Claims of supernatural phenomena conflict directly and fundamentally with current scientific understanding.

A concept of the supernatural is generally identified with religion, although there is much debate as to whether a conception of the supernatural is necessary for religion (see The nature of God in Western theology and Anthropology of religion).

Generally, most people contrast the supernatural with the natural, while some people believe that these two concepts are compatible.

There have been many attempts to verify claims of supernatural phenomena scientifically. All are generally considered failures, although proponents often claimed to show startling and unusual results. Most scientists claim that the experiments are best classified as pseudoscience, that they have been experimentally flawed, statistically invalid, and/or not repeatable. Many critics of such experiments state that believers fool themselves into seeing results due to magical thinking.

Many events once accepted as supernatural are now understood as manifestations of a natural, explainable nature that were misinterpreted.

Most religious people claim that these phenomena, being essentially "unnatural," are not appropriate for scientific study (see also William James, The Variety of Religious Experience).

The supernatural is also a topic in various genres of fiction, such as fantasy and horror. Some examples of supernatural phenomena are miracles, ghosts; psychic abilities like psychokinesis and telepathy are better classified as paranormal than supernatural.

John Drane writes that science is perpetuating "intellectual arrogance" when it does not accept the possibility of supernatural events and miracles: "To say that unique events can never happen, or that the supernatural does not exist, when most people of most ethnic groups at most points in history have claimed otherwise, is merely to perpetuate the intellectual arrogance of previous generations of Western thinkers, and far from providing an answer to the questions raised by history it merely begs larger and more important questions about the nature of Western intellectual culture." In response, most scienists and historians regard such arguments as fundamentalist religious apologetics.

Table of contents
1 Arguments against supernaturality
2 Arguments in favor of supernaturality
3 "Supernaturalization"
4 The supernatural in monotheistic religions

Arguments against supernaturality

The following arguments are frequently cited against the existence of supernatural events:

Arguments in favor of supernaturality

Following are some common counter arguments to the above.

However, Jews do not accept the claims made in the Christian New Testament; similarly, Christians do not accept the supernatural claims made by the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, and so on. John Drane writes:

Not unrelated to this is a more general philosophical scepticism towards any document whether ancient or modern, that appears to give credence to the possibility of the occurrence of unique, or apparently miraculous happenings. Academic biblical study still generally operates within a mechanistic world-view, according to which the universe is understood as a closed system, operating according to rigidly structured 'laws of nature' which are entirely predictable and never deviate. By definition, therefore, the unpredictable cannot happen, and on this view it is inevitable that the gospels should be seen as something other than history, for they do contain accounts of a number of unique happenings which appear to violate the 'laws of nature' as set out by Newtonian science. Physics, of course, no longer operates on that paradigm, and the work of more recent theorists has led to the emergence of a far more flexible understanding of what might be possible within the physical universe.


The neologism supernaturalize, means "to make supernatural". This term is sometimes used to describe the process of ascribing supernatural causes to natural events. This process may also be referred to as mythification or spiritualization. Because the assumption of the skeptical reader is that supernatural events cannot or are unlikely to occur, their description is seen as the result of a process of deliberate or unconscious mysticism, thus, "supernaturalization".

Alleged instances of supernaturalization

Until there was any proper understanding of the causative factors in disease and the actual disease processes themselves, there was a tendency to see sickness as a result of divine visitations and punishment for wrongdoing. (Oxford Companion to the Bible (1992), entry for "Medicine and the Bible")

The supernatural in monotheistic religions

Many modern skeptical readers of the Bible hold that its authors gradually reinterpreted historical and natural events as miraculous or supernatural. The article on The supernatural in monotheistic religions thus concerns itself with the junction between monotheistic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the supernatural.

Supernatural is also the name of an album by Santana, released in 1999.