Can Science Study the Supernatural?

Vic Stenger

Talk given on April 8, 2006 at the conference "Darwinian Evolution in the 21st Century," University of Colorado, Boulder, and on April 26, 2006 at the Dallas Philosophers Forum.


The National Academy of Sciences has stated: "science can say nothing about the supernatural." According to the late Stephen J. Gould, science and religion are two "non-overlapping magisteria" (NOMA). In the recent Dover, PA court case, both sides testified that the ground rules of science would have to be broadened to allow for the consideration of supernatural forces. This plays right into the hands of those who accuse science of being dogmatically committed to a totally materialistic view of reality. In fact, science can and does study phenomena, such as intercessory prayer, which if empirically verified would be highly unlikely to be explainable naturally. Furthermore, the total absence of any scientific observations in support of supernatural forces can be taken as strong evidence that they do not exist. Scientists must stop giving religion a special dispensation from any critical analysis of religious claims.