It's a fact that natural existences are constricted by the necessity of evidence. Meaning evidence is necessary to prove an natural existence or natural occurrence, and if there's is no evidence the necessity of evidence is not met and thus it cannot exist or occur. An example of this Bigfoot, by definition he's a natural existence but since the necessity of sufficient evidence has not been met he has been deemed as "imaginary" and does not exist.

Atheists tend to use the burden of proof on supernatural entities, implying that this entity is constricted by the necessity of evidence. Yet the necessity of evidence is something relative to the material or natural reality. Why would we even assume that the supernatural reality is in concordance with this method? I have three premises that I need to help evauting:

  1. Prove that the necessity of evidence applies to the supernatural reality, meaning you need to prove supernatural existences are constricted by necessity of evidence like natural existences are.

  2. Prove that the supernatural reality is tangible and observable and thus should have no excuse for not having "evidence" like the natural reality. In other words prove that elements of the supernatural reality are even compatible with the necessity of evidence (tangibility and observation)

  3. Prove that the supernatural reality is concordance by the laws of the natural world, and thus should have no reason of incompatibility with our methods and laws (laws of physics etc.)

How would we answer these premises?

  • By definition "super"-natural entities are beyond nature - beyond measurement or observation in the sensual universe. They cannot be proven by scientific means. All 'proofs' lie in the assertion, not in the negation. – Swami Vishwananda May 9 at 4:15
  • "Why would we even assume that the supernatural reality is in concordance with this method?" Why would we assume there is a supernatural reality in the first place? In order for me to assume anything about the supernatural, I would have to first be convinced that it exists. Also I think you are missing the point that you, as a believer, need to convince people of the existence of the supernatural (assuming you want them to believe like you do. But if you don't then why care at all?) you need to provide arguments to change their mind. Telling them they have to prove you are wrong won't work. – armand May 9 at 11:29
  • Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. While unlikely, the existence of a coexisting unknown hominid in our recent past is possible, though increasingly unlikely in modern mapped & satellited times. There's an account of what seems to have been a woolly rhino being loaded on to a train in Siberia only a century and a half ago - best candidate for unicorns, apparently they scooped waterholes in the steppe that others could drink from, getting their association with purifying waters. Fossils & frozen bodies are extremely rare. The cases remain open. – CriglCragl May 9 at 14:32
  • I am wondering how one would claim, demonstrate, communicate, or even state these proofs without recourse to the senses? Such appeal to the evidence of the senses is built into the discussion from the very beginning. Or at least this is the "modern" paradigm since roughly Bacon. To prove that God exists by appeal to the authority of the Bible is still an appeal to experience and to the accounts of the experiences of witnesses. It is a matter or how this material "evidence" is to be organized and repeated to provide intuitive agreement. Finding ways to disagree is never a problem. – Nelson Alexander May 9 at 17:47

Any resolution to this question, or any sense of this question, relies irreconcilably on the definition of “supernatural”. I say this for two reasons.

One reason is there are many vague and often incoherent notions of what “supernatural” means, which is useful for a strategy of leapfrogging between different definitions within a single conversation when convenient to do so (motte and bailey arguments, for example). This strategy is common in many relevant conversations.

However, there are conversations on this topic that are in good faith as well, leading me to my second reason. The more concrete notions of “supernatural” I’ve comes across seem to entail something beyond the necessity for evidence. This precludes your three premises. For example, your third premise would be impossible because the supernatural does not abide by the laws of nature by common definitions. I will further illustrate what I mean in the importance of demanding a definition.

“Atheists tend to use the burden of proof on supernatural entities, implying that this entity is constricted by the necessity of evidence. Yet the necessity of evidence is something relative to the material or natural reality. Why would we even assume that the supernatural reality is in concordance with this method?”

Then the relevant question becomes, how is such a supernatural thing detected? If is detected in the natural world, it is natural. If it is not detected in the natural world, how is it detected? If the detector is natural and the detected is supernatural, what is the nature of the measurement?

If the definition of supernatural is true to its roots, it entails beyond (super-) nature (-natural). But how can that which is beyond nature be detected by that which is in nature?

This is where burden of proof comes in, as it seems there’s a category error in thinking that which can be detected in nature is beyond nature. If there is no such error, than an explanation as well as an empirical example is rationally expected.


You have made a mistake in your initial premise already. Existence is not bound by the availability of evidence, only proof of existencr is.

You bigfoot example shows this: you stated that he is deemed to "not exist" due to a lack of evidence, but this is not the case. All we have here is "insufficient evidence", which (ideally) leads to the situation where no claim of existence is made one way or the other.

No entity is bound by the "nesessity of evidence". The atheist (well, most) will not use the lack of evidence to claim non-existence of the entity. They will, however, use lack of evidence to withhold belief untill sufficient evidence is given. The theist claims knowledge. Knowledge is bound by the existence of evidence, so you should be able to provide said evidence if requested.

As for your premises.

  1. It does. In the fields of science and naturalism, evidence is needed to make a legitimate claim about the existence of a thing. Since both science and naturalism describe the natural world, supernatural entities fall outside of their fields, but they still need the same evidence before a claim other than "we do not know" should be made

  2. If this supernatural entity does not interact with the natural world, its existence is a moot point, which will often let science to ignore the premise as "irrelevant".

Specifically for god; that entity is said to be able to affect things on earth, so it is able to interact with the natural world. Such interactions leave evidence by definition, so said evidence needs to be provided in the process of proving existence.

  1. It doesn't. The current natural laws describe and explain the natural world. Any supernatural entities are not required to adhere to these rules. Moreover since these rules are not binding in the first place.
  • The case against Bigfoot is more than "no evidence". If the Rockies were unexplored territory, all we could say about Bigfoot is that we don't know. However, there's been enough people going through any reasonable Bigfoot habitat that we'd expect to have some evidence if it existed. We know enough biology to assign a reasonable probability of encountering evidence, and, given enough failures, this starts to be reasonable evidence of absence. – David Thornley May 10 at 13:56
  • Agree with @DavidThornley, the absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence, so long as you've looked hard enough. An exhaustive search of Bigfoot's purported habitat that turns up nothing at all should not be treated as "insufficient evidence" that has no effect of the likelihood of Bigfoot's existence. If the likelihood of finding evidence increases with the likelihood of Bigfoot's existence, so too must the likelihood of Bigfoot's existence decrease with the lack of evidence. – Nuclear Hoagie Jun 9 at 15:09

There is no necessity of evidence for things to exist. Historically, we've found that lots of things exist, and presumably have existed, before we've had evidence for them. If quarks and leptons had not existed from the beginning of the Universe, cosmology would be meaningless, but we've only had evidence of them for a relatively short time.

We need evidence for our own perceptions of the Universe. There's no difference here between the natural and the supernatural, because our beliefs in either are similar.

To talk about observing the supernatural, we need to examine what it needs to observe more. We know there are cats in the world because we all agree that we observe them, and the observations are more or less consistent. Suppose we had what appeared to be a perception of God. It's not nearly as verifiable as perceptions of cats. Most people don't have such a direct perception, and the descriptions from people who claim to have one are considerably different in various ways. This doesn't mean those perceptions are illusions or delusions, or that God doesn't exist (whatever "God" actually means), but it's hard to think of other evidence for the existence of the supernatural.

The supernatural is not definable by the laws of physics. We've seen things that defy the laws of physics over and over, found laws of physics that explain them (and not the next few dozen mysteries we know of), and consider them natural. If we had an explanation for ghosts that was explainable by the laws of physics, we'd consider them natural phenomena. People who have thought telepathy explainable by physics have generally thought it natural, while people who didn't have generally considered it supernatural.


  1. There is no difference between belief in natural and supernatural entities as far as the need for evidence goes, because the important word here is "belief", not "supernatural".
  2. This really isn't expressed clearly enough for me to evaluate. What do you mean by "reality"? Are you talking about some sort of consensus reality, or a reality we can't necessarily perceive?
  3. A "natural" phenomenon is one explained by laws of physics, known or unknown. A "supernatural" phenomenon perforce can't be explained by them.

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