According to the strict materialist view, if something "supernatural" exists, it is by definition not supernatural. Are there forces beyond the natural forces studied by physics? Are there ways of sensing that go beyond our biological senses and instruments? Certainly there may always be things outside of the realm of human understanding, as of yet unconfirmed and dubious in existence, and some might term these "supernatural".
Argument and controversy has surrounded the issue on both sides. One complicating factor is that there is no exact definition of what “natural” is, and what the limits of naturalism might be. Concepts in the supernatural domain are closely related to concepts in religious spirituality and occultism or spiritualism. The term "supernatural" is often used interchangeably with paranormal or preternatural — the latter typically limited to an adjective for describing abilities which appear to exceed the bounds of possibility. See the nature of God in Western theology, anthropology of religion, and Biblical cosmology. Likewise, legendary characters such as vampires, poltergeists and leprechauns would be considered supernatural.
Views on the supernatural
Speculative views on the "supernatural" include that it may
|Distinct from nature||Some events occur according to natural laws, and others occur according to a separate set of principles external to nature. For example God (in most definitions) is considered to be the ultimate creator of the universe and the natural laws. Those who believe in Angels and Spirits generally assert that they are super-natural entities. Some religious people also believe that all things which humans see as natural only act the same way consistently because God wills it so, and that natural laws are an extension of divine will.|
|A higher nature||Others assert that God, miracles, or other putative supernatural events are real, verifiable, and part of the laws of nature that we do not yet understand.|
|A human coping mechanism||Others believe that all events have natural and only natural causes. They believe that human beings ascribe supernatural attributes to purely natural events (eg. Lightning, Rainbows, Floods, the Origin of Life).|
|Magic||Many people have sought to use both magic and science in hopes of empowering humanity for improvement and to achieve a clearer picture of humanity's place in the cosmos. In the earliest Christian art (from the 3rd century) Jesus Christ is portrayed as a bare-faced youth holding a wand as a symbol of power (See: Images of Jesus). There may be a persistent link between supernaturalism, the paranormal, and the desire for immortality.|
|A word for unexplained events||Before the scientific method was used, everything was believed to have a supernatural cause. "Supernatural" today is in this sense merely used as an inspiration for more scientific knowledge tomorrow, through observation and analysis.|
|Another part of a larger nature||This is a view largely held by monists and process theorists. According to this view, the "supernatural" is just a term for parts of nature that modern science and philosophy do not yet properly understand, similar to how sound and lightning used to be mysterious forces to science. Materialist monists believe that the "supernatural" consists of things in the physical universe not yet understood by modern science, while idealist monists reject the concept of "supernatural" on the grounds that they believe "nature" is the non-material. Neutral monists maintain that "nature" and "supernature" are artificial categories as they believe that the material and non-material are both either equally real and simultaneously existent, or illusions that stem from the human mind's interpretation of reality.|