Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Miracles and the supernatural

I've been thinking...

The conservation of energy seems to be one of the most fundamental and well established laws in physics. It has a pretty strong mathematical basis thanks to Emmy Noether (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noether's_theorem) and really is the basic foundation for all of our understanding about how things work in the universe. Basically, energy can't be created or destroyed, it can only change form. Since it is also pretty firmly established that mass and energy are equivalent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass-energy_equivalence), the same applies to everything we generally interact with in the world.

So, my thought is that miracles, and the supernatural in general, would be at their heart violations of the conservation of energy. We all have a pretty intuitive understanding of this, which is why they would be considered something special at all. (Despite the fact that this site pretty much thinks that's a perfectly reasonable thing to have happen, they have a nice list so I'll link to it.)

So, the interesting thing about such powers is that they "seem" to be fully controllable (yay, free energy!) until you actually try to test them under controlled conditions (resulting in the typical tired excuses).

Now, I suppose that, in theory, telekinesis could work, as long as the person doing the telekinesising (that is so not a word, but so should be) is actually expending as much energy as is being used to apply a force somewhere else. Of course, if we could actually determine the mechanism by which this sort of action-at-a-distance is being done, it would no longer be supernatural, and merely a new understanding of nature.

Now, I'll be honest here, I don't know that I really had a point to this post, so it will be difficult to wrap up. I'm just thinking. That's why this blog is called Inverse Thinking.

So, if your deity of choice is omniscient and omnipotent, how does that work? If God is embedded in every part of the universe, but has the ability to introduce an unlimited amount of new energy into it, why build a universe that is so utterly strict on the energy thing? And why be so utterly stingy about it?

I suppose the point is this: If you accept the conservation of energy as absolute, you also have to dismiss the notion that God intervenes in the universe. You also have a pretty solid baseline for dismissing all other supernatural claims.

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