The Understanding Science website at Berkeley is generally a good resource, but unfortunately, they also promote a dishonest approach to religion and the supernatural, presumably out of a desire to avoid offending anyone. Being nice is not a good excuse for compromising on the principles of science, however.
I refer specifically to their section on the limits of science. Science certainly does have limits, but this isn’t one of them.
Science doesn’t draw conclusions about supernatural explanations
Do gods exist? Do supernatural entities intervene in human affairs? These questions may be important, but science won’t help you answer them. Questions that deal with supernatural explanations are, by definition, beyond the realm of nature — and hence, also beyond the realm of what can be studied by science. For many, such questions are matters of personal faith and spirituality.
Baloney. If the question involves only personal faith and spirituality, if it’s just a dialog going on in your head with no material consequences that might affect the world or other people, than sure, science doesn’t deal with that, and can’t deal with that. But the instant you claim that your supernatural beliefs impinge on the natural world, boom, science is on it.
Prayer can heal your cancer… boom. Cancer is something we study.
God’s love will end war… boom. The interactions between societies is not simply a matter of personal faith and spirituality.
God told me the earth is only 6,000 years old… boom. The earth is under our purview, and the rocks say differently.
Worship makes me feel good… boo…oh, wait. No. That one’s OK. Of course your subjective experiences can have subjective effects, and your mind even has some control over your physical body.
But the principle of that argument at the website is wrong. Supernatural explanations of natural phenomena are no longer outside the realm of nature, and are therefore subject to scientific inquiry. Just saying that your explanation for something is supernatural is not a get-out-of-science-free card.
Of course, your supernatural explanations for supernatural events are not subject to scientific constraints. Go ahead and tell stories about deities zapping other deities with magic bolts of ectoplasm that nobody has seen and that did not affect anyone. No one can argue with you — it’s like debating who would win in a contest between the DC and Marvel comic book universes. Evidence and reason won’t come into it, but also, it’s irrelevant to how the world works.