This is a guest post by Gordon Ambrose from The discerning man's squatch. Stop by his facebook page and give it a like. Gordon is a bigfoot enthusiast who employs critical thinking when looking at bigfoot evidence.
Supernatural VS. Paranormal:
A definition and understanding.
To the layman believer and even the skeptic the two words are used interchangeably and seem to have the same connotations for those when debating subjects of the unknown. You also will often see the terms defined and argued erroneously and one taking the role of the other. The word supernatural means outside of nature or beyond nature (nature includes our whole universe) whereas the word paranormal means not or beyond normal (outside of how we think the world usually operates). When using the term Supernatural (if we are to use it correctly) we are referring to beyond our visible universe or to God, divine or other dimensional. These are things that are outside the scope of what we can know of our world through the sciences, physics, relativity, quantum mechanics etc. If they are truly supernatural they can’t be explained unless you give the task to the philosopher or theologian and even then they are only theories that can never be verified by science. The term paranormal means beyond or extraneous of normal or what we have come to expect of objects or ideas and those things behaving differently than we would conclude based on all of our cumulative observations and research. Paranormal has the possibility of being explained at some point in the future (possibly losing its paranormal status) whereas the Supernatural may forever be beyond our reach of understanding and by definition in fact is. In all instances when describing either, it comes down to Epistemology…what can we know (is it knowable and what are our limits of knowing it?) and how do we know it (what skills have we used to understand it and is it justified knowledge?).
A problem of the human condition is that believers and skeptics alike tend to look at that which interests them, and see what they want to see. A confirmation of their worldviews from the passionate beholder and the struggle to maintain the balance that helps them get through their everyday lives. Sometimes we become irrational, whether the subject is the paranormal or politics and it is evident when taking some extreme views from both the Democratic or Republican parties. “While some Democrats will say George Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11 some Republicans are certain that Obama is not a citizen of the United States and therefore not qualified for the office.” (* Steve Volk, Fringe.ology 2011) These extreme ideas come from preconceived notions about something that gives those beliefs greater weight than they really should have. I am not debating either view, but will contend that it is worthy of discussion to note that we all lean a certain way, even those in the middle, and that tends to inform and even cloud our judgments concerning our beliefs and attitudes.
The concept of an afterlife falls into the Supernatural as our answers come down to faith and upbringing and not something tangible within our physical grasp. It is something no matter what your postulation, we take on faith. A one-way street so to speak because we all die, but we don’t get the chance to come back and tell our tale to confirm the other side, excluding cases of near death experiences, which by definition are only near death and not the complete journey. On the other side of the same coin, ghosts or apparitions fall into the paranormal, and it may be possible one day with further study to verify that they exist. Proof of ghosts however does not prove the existence of an afterlife, because then the question becomes what is a ghost?
Once again, discovery and proof forever change the paranormal into the normal, no matter how rare or outrageous. Paranormal has room to evolve whereas the supernatural is static… or it is forced to admit that it never was supernatural. In other words what is “truly” paranormal can one day become normal, but what is “truly” supernatural is always supernatural or it was mislabeled in the first place.
*A quick note: Being that my personal site is a Bigfoot website, Sasquatch does not fit into either the Supernatural or Paranormal category. Bigfoot is either an obscure animal roaming our woods or merely a myth that won’t go away.
A lot to swallow I know , but I feel it is best to at least know the definition of terms we sometimes throw around loosely if we are to gain any upper ground in our conversations towards understanding. It is also wise to the best of your ability to recognize when your dogma influences your reality to the point where it distorts it. That is not always an easy task, but I think a worthy one for both believer and skeptic. As a skeptic myself I don’t always have an easy time with it, but when I am able, I see it brings the whole into focus and gives me a much better foundation on which to supplant my arguments.
Note: Skeptic does not mean a non believer. Only one who questions before swallowing whole hog.
Speaking of the word argument and even the word debate, I would suggest a much better way for us all to enter into the ring is with “conversation”. Both the word debate and argument as does the word ring suggests that we are taking our separate corners, waiting for the bell, and coming out swinging in hopes of a KO, TKO or a ruling from a judge on who the winner is after so many rounds. We much better serve ourselves by declaring there will be no winner and that we both have the same common goal in mind. That goal is a clearer understanding of the unknown through a more organized and deliberate approach, knowing the definition of the terms we use and using common sense to filter our own leanings that can take us off course. We are after all at the crossroads of faith and reason and in the end we all stand here together, waiting, watching and wondering.
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