Monday, January 16, 2012

The Big Questions - Evidence for God

Sadly I only caught the last half-hour of Sunday's "The Big Question" which had atheists and theists discussing the evidence for God. Sad to say most of it was the same back and forth that occurs on any internet forum dealing with the subject though slightly more polite and with the ability to interrupt others, something I noted the theists doing to the atheists more than the other way around.

Important point - I'm not talking about or for all theists or atheists only the ones on this programme and ones I've encountered. Likewise as the programme was about God with the capital I'll also refer to 'it' as capital "H" He.

Argument 1: If there's an effect there must be a cause. The universe is an effect therefore there must be a cause - ergo God.

This argument falls flat when atheists attempt to apply the same argument to God because theists then state the argument that they themselves put forward either doesn't apply to God (apparently because they say so) or that God was self-causing; which is a solution that can answer their own initial question. Secondly this is how some theists hide what they really want to say which is for every cause there must be a reason.

Argument 2: I have experienced God personally - ergo God.

This is the egocentric argument that if I experience something it must be real not just for me, but for everyone. Countered almost instantly by one of the atheists pointing out his post-operation delusions that the nurses were planning on killing him. So his experience was false, however if he'd experienced God then that would have been true.

Hammered home when one of the theists objected to one of the atheists referring to the biblical experiences of God as "fictitious" as they were real to the people who experienced them. So were the delusions of plotting nurses, but the gentleman didn't expect people to take them seriously once they were over.

Other than the subject matter the sole difference was that the atheist realised they weren't real when they stopped, but the theists continued to do so. Amusingly had the gentleman continued to believe the nurses were still plotting and tried to take action about it he'd have probably been recommended therapy; whereas a theist would start a church.

Argument 3: There are things outside the purview of science; God is one of them therefore you cannot apply science to God.

This isn't an argument about the evidence for God it's an argument that there can be no evidence for God within the scientific framework. This often becomes a circular argument. Start with an assumption that God is outside the realms of science then use His existence as prove that there are things outside the realms of science.

Even if this fallacy isn't used and we allow that such matters can exist apart from science this can be used to 'prove' anything. Why not unicorns, elves, leprechauns, magic, psychics, Thor, Vishnu? One the 'outside of science' box is opened anything can come out.

To step away from what some theists state as puerile ("why not unicorns?") placing God outside science means that God cannot affect the physical world at a macro level otherwise there's a point where God and science has to meet. If God speaks to you he can't be doing so by creating compression waves in the air or altering the flow of neurons in your brain because that means God is doing science. Therefore not only is the argument that God is outside of science, but everything He does is too. So how can He have any effect on us that is both 'real' and unmeasurable by science? At which point the puerile argument can recommence when one can ask how do you know it was God talking to you and not a unicorn?

Argument 4: We don't believe in the God that you think we believe so you're looking in the wrong place for the evidence.

One of the theists stated that he didn't believe God was anthropomorphic; which is odd given that the Bible states that very clearly. He said he didn't believe in an interventionist God hence the lack of evidence. That's fine except for two points. Point one he still believe in prayer. Point two if there is zero evidence for something you discount it as existing or qualify it as being only a personal 'hunch'.

Non-argument 5: One of the audience pointed out how easy it was to classify the atheists as rational and the theists as irrational.

This is a fair point. Theists can often produce logical thought trains that lead to the conclusion that there is a God and within this framework they are acting rationally. The same approach from the others side for atheists. However in both cases each side can put forward arguments that can knock out a block in either's logic. Rationally if that's done then the conclusion should be revised - it is irrational to pretend the logic block still exists or to continue to come to the same conclusion.

So what's my conclusion? As I said at the beginning of this piece no really new arguments just rehashing which is what I'd expect as there are no new arguments that theists can bring forward. They're all based on the assumption that God is real; that in terms of scientific evidence you're looking in the wrong manner; in the wrong direction and for the wrong thing and the fact I have faith is evidence enough. Amazingly enough some theists who say that last part have the courtesy to add "for me" to the end of it and I applaud all who can do that provided they don't expect to be treated as being special just because they think they're special.


Orphi said...

Point of fact: Science is not the study of what is true. It is the study of what can be experimentally proven.

Exhibit A: String theory. Looks very sciency. Not science. Makes no falsifiable claims.

Christianity makes no falsifiable claims. According to the Holy Bible, God can do absolutely anything. Therefore there is no possible experimental result which would be inconsistent with the existence of God.

In summary: The existence of God is outside the purview of science, because there will never be any conclusive evidence for or against.

Note that being outside the purview of science does not make it true, and does not make it false. It simply makes it uninteresting.

By contrast, if unicorns existed, there most certainly would be evidence. The fact that no such evidence has been found strongly suggests that unicorns do not exist.

Personally, I consider belief in God to be delusional. But I have no problem with people kidding themselves, so long as they refrain from waging wars over it or trying to indoctrinate others into unquestioningly accepting this nonsense.

FlipC said...

There are some predictions that String theory makes it's just that we're only know getting the equipment that can look.

If we look at it from the evidential point of view I see the following:

Theists - There's evidence of God aplenty if only you'd recognise it.
Agnostics - There's no evidence of God because it's a concept beyond evidence.
Atheists - There's no evidence of God because there's no God.

A fourth category would be:

Scientist - There's no evidence of God so there is no God until such evidence is produced.

Now as you the question is - what would constitute evidence? If we except the premise of the God of the majority of theists then as you say there are no experimental results that would confirm or contradict such a state.

God appears

God: "I am God!"
Scientist: "Prove it"

Anything from that point simply shows a person with abilities beyond our own. Clarke's third law comes into play.

In the end you hit the nail on the head - I don't care what personal views someone holds provide they don't a) expect me to automatically respect them; b) expect me to abide by them; or c) teach them to those who are predisposed to believe them.

How long religion would last if it were an offence for parents to teach their children it and the only method for recruitment would be the choice of an adult?

Orphi said...

How long would religion last if it wasn't tax-free, or if questioning it didn't get your house burned down?