In another thread, a discussion took off based on the following claim (paraphrased):
‘The existence of a supernatural being cannot be proven’
A poster in that thread took issue with this claim and offered (something like) the following as an example where a thing that cannot be observed can be proven to at least exist, based exclusively on its observed effects.
1. The electronic device can only be unlocked by X’s fingerprint.
2. X is currently not in the room with the electronic device.
3. The electronic device is currently unlocked.
4. Therefore, X exists
In this case, we cannot observe X, but we can see the effects that could only have come from X (barring exceptions like a device malfunction or someone stealing X’s finger, etc). So we can be reasonably sure that the effect was indeed caused by X and that, by extension, X must exist.
More broadly, because we have experience with both people with fingerprints and electronic devices with fingerprint scanners, we can say that the deductive argument above is at least a reasonable demonstration that X exists insofar as the scenario is concerned.
However, in the case of “supernatural” beings, I submit that we cannot draw a line of deduction that convincingly connects any such being with any observable event in nature. That is because, if we cannot observe a thing, we cannot claim to know anything about it, including that it is the cause of a given event.
Dark energy is a good example of a thing we cannot observe, and don’t know anything about.
Dark energy is “a theoretical repulsive force that counteracts gravity and causes the universe to expand at an accelerating rate”.
In the case of Dark Energy, the term “Dark Energy” is simply a placeholder for the cause of an effect that we can observe. But the fact is that we have no idea what’s causing the effect (universal expansion) except for some sort of repulsive force. We haven’t deduced that dark energy causes the effect. We’ve only determined that there is an effect, and for now, we call that repulsive force “dark energy”.
“Supernatural” typically means that it transcends nature; that is it separate and distinct from nature; that is unobservable from the natural world. My contention is that if we have no experience with a thing, we cannot go on to say anything more about it, let alone go on to claim that it must be the cause of a given event. If we cannot observe a thing by any means, then all we can do is assign a placeholder term that carries with it no informing properties; it literally tells us nothing.