The Inner Dimensions of Nature

Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

There is a lot of debate about the characteristics of nature and the existence of the supernatural, but through it all the concept of nature is often obscure. We may use the same word, but often we’re not talking about the same thing.

For the materialist, nature consists of the objective properties studied by science and nothing more. Nature includes 3 spatial dimensions and its movement through the fourth dimension of time. Structure and function are all there is to the machinery of nature.

We impose these materialist ideas of nature on our ideas of the supernatural. The supernatural means beyond nature, something which transcends nature. And with the materialist idea of nature, the supernatural becomes something that is outside the external dimensions or outside the laws of physics.

This gives us a conception of God as a disembodied mind who exists beyond the limits of space-time, outside the universe. But outside is a spatial description, being outside space is like being north of the north pole. It’s not an intelligible concept.

The materialist idea of nature also infects our ideas of the soul. It’s been likened to a ghost in the machine. This is a view of the soul as an immaterial homunculus floating somewhere behind the eyes.

These ideas of God and the soul are implausible if we understand them with the materialist ideas of nature. This is why many people assume the existence of the supernatural is an incoherent idea. They think belief in God and the soul is irrational. They think science has shown they don’t exist.

But they don’t stop to consider it’s the materialist idea of nature that is incoherent. Our ideas about nature determine our ideas of the supernatural.

The materialist conception of nature comes from scientific descriptions of nature’s objective properties. But science is a method, a way to investigate and gain knowledge of nature. It intentionally excludes anything except the measurable objective properties.

That exclusion doesn’t mean science gives us a complete description of nature, or that nature only consists of the properties science allows in its explanations.

Wearing rose-colored glasses means we see the world in a particular way according to the filters we’ve imposed on our view of the world. But it’s a rudimentary mistake to assume this means the world itself is rose colored. This is the same mistake materialists make when assuming nature is nothing more than the scientific description.

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