Paranormal is generally defined by most sources as phenomena that is “beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation”.
Supernatural is defined as anything above or beyond what one holds to be natural and exists outside natural law and the observable universe.
On the surface these two definitions seem to be very similar, but they aren’t. One states that it is only outside of scientific explanation (and I would take this to mean current scientific explanation), while the other states that it is above and beyond what is natural, period.
Science tends to naturalize things, using a process known as methodological naturalism, and categorizes all that cannot be investigated empirically as nonexistent. When looking at mainstream science and the methods used, it would seem that to ever prove that either the paranormal or the supernatural are real is a waste of time and effort. I believe this to be true regarding the supernatural. It’s definition alone should tell us all that it is a term we should refrain from using at all. But is using the word paranormal doing us any favors?
There is another, lesser used form of naturalism called metaphysical naturalism, and I believe that proving the existence of the paranormal is not only a valid use of our time in attempting to do so, but also quite possible.
“Metaphysical naturalism, or ontological naturalism, is a world view and belief system that holds that there is nothing but natural things, forces, and causes of the kind studied by the natural sciences, i.e. those required to understand our physical environment and having mechanical properties amenable to mathematical modeling. Metaphysical naturalism holds that all concepts related to consciousness or to the mind refer to entities which are reducible to or supervene on natural things, forces and causes. More specifically, it rejects the objective existence of any supernatural thing, force or cause, such as occur in humanity’s various religions, as well as any form of teleology. It sees all ‘supernatural’ things as explainable in purely natural terms. It is not merely a view about what science currently studies, but also about what science might discover in the future.” (1)
Note that metaphysical naturalism rejects the existence of the supernatural, but not the paranormal. Remember, the supernatural is the one that is above and beyond what is natural, period. The definition also states that this is a view of not only what we currently know, but what we have yet to discover. I believe that this would include the paranormal.
If we were to apply metaphysical naturalism to our investigation and research, if we look within the natural for explanations of everything, not just everything that we can explain at this moment, I believe we will find the answers and the proof that we are looking for.
What if everything we find on an investigation has a natural explanation? The thump in the wall caused by a loose pipe has a natural explanation that we already know, we don’t need to find and prove it. But what if the EVP clip has a natural explanation as well? What if the phantom touch on the arm has a perfectly natural explanation? What if that which we call ghost, spirit, intelligent being, inhuman being, soul, all have natural explanations that we just have to find?
If we were to all let go of the idea of the “supernatural” and “paranormal” for a moment, and look at all that is natural before us, it is possible to find exactly how these unknown entities work and exist. There was a time when magnets were thought of to be magic. We all know now that magnetism is a perfectly natural occurrence. But someone had to take those natural things around us and unlock the combination of that which is natural of this earth and universe to find out what made those magnets work.
I believe that everything we learn within science should be a building block for what we do not yet know. We all spend so much of our time trying to document apparitions, capture EVP clips, have realtime communication…we think we are gathering proof, but the bottom line is that all we are proving is that there is something out there that we have no proof of, and we accomplish nothing but offering up yet another video/photo/audio clip for the hardcore skeptics to have a field day with. Without knowing what these things really are and what they are really caused by, we know absolutely nothing other than we have a bunch of interesting pictures and other data to argue over.
What if instead, we were to look more at what it is that already exists on this earth that these beings are made of? What if we were to look at what we experience as the natural, and not the supernatural, as the normal, and not the paranormal, and focus on deciphering what causes the appearance of a ghost the same way that men once deciphered what caused the stars to move in the sky each night?
Humans have DNA, atoms and molecules, water and matter, all within us. So does every other living creature on the planet, but it is the combination of those things that make each creature unique. These are all physical things that we know to exist, as well. But there are plenty of unseen things that we know to exist on this planet as well. There is gravity, electromagnetic energy, the atmosphere, the heliosphere, even the air..they are all unseen and accepted by science.
So what combination of these and/or other unseen forces that we already know exist are causing what we have come to call paranormal activity? And if we find this combination, does that negate that what we are experiencing is caused by something outside of what we previously knew, that is an intelligent and separate being? Not necessarily. All that it negates is that it is unknown or not normal.