According to Science, God Does Not Exist—this is likely one of the most bold and, dare I say it, rather foolhardy things I have ever read, and I simply felt I had to respond. I see a fundamental problem with the very title, but I let the article I am debunking first speak. The article is written by someone called Austin Cline, which I found on LearnReligions.com. It is an old article, written on June 25, 2019, but I think it deserves a response because I find that this line of reasoning embodies what is wrong with a lot of atheistic apologetics. Let us begin.
In the debate over whether God exists, we have theists on the one side, atheists on the other, and, in the middle, science. Atheists claim there is scientific proof that God is not real. Theists, on the other hand, insist that science, in fact, has been unable to prove that God does not exist. According to atheists, however, this position depends upon a mistaken understanding of the nature of science and how science operates. Therefore, it is possible to say that, scientifically, God does not exist—just as science discounts the existence of a myriad of other alleged beings.
As noted above, there is so much wrong with the very basis of this line of reasoning. Yes, science does not prove and never will prove that God does not exist. This, I think, is not only because God does, in fact, exist, but also, more importantly, because Mr. Cline does not understand the nature of the question, “Does God exist?” The God-debate is not, and never has been, a question pertaining primarily to natural science in the first place, nor should we expect it to do so. Rather, the question is philosophical. The reason for this is that God is not part of the physical or natural universe. On the contrary, He created the laws of physics to begin with. Therefore, He should not be expected to be subject to being proved or disproved by natural science in the first place. Yes, it is true that God can interfere with the natural sciences through miracles. However, that is not the way we ought to expect our main source of evidence for God, as that is philosophical, not scientific. This problem will emerge again throughout the article.
To understand why “God does not exist” is a legitimate scientific statement, it’s important to understand what the statement means in the context of science. When scientist say, “God does not exist,” they mean something similar to when they say “aether does not exist,” “psychic powers do not exist,” or “life does on the moon does not exist.”
All such statements are shorthand for a more elaborate and technical explanation, which is that this alleged entity (or God) has no place in any scientific equations, plays no role in any scientific explanations, cannot be used to predict any events, does not describe anything or force that has yet been detected, and there are no models of the universe in which its presence is either required, productive, or useful.
What should be most obvious about the more technically accurate statement is that it isn’t absolute. It does not deny for all time any possible existence of the entity or force in question; instead, it’s a provisional statement denying the existence of any relevance or reality to the entity or force based on what we currently know. Religious theists may be quick to seize upon this and insist that it demonstrates that science cannot “prove” that God does not exist, but that requires far too strict of a standard for what it means to “prove” something scientifically.
Statements such as “psychic powers do not exist,” or “life does on the moon does not exist”, though perhaps perfectly legitimate as scientific statements, do not hold up to philosophy. Philosophers almost always would say something more to the effect of “I do not know if there is life on the moon”, unless there is proof to the contrary. But be that as it may, with the same stroke I could say “love does not exist” or “honor does not exist” or even, (dare I say it) “the laws of logic do not exist”. And before anyone tries to argue that the universe seems to follow the laws of logic, I challenge you to prove it without appealing to the laws of logic, which would render your reasoning cyclical.
Anyway, science cannot prove these things either because, unlike aether or life on the moon, God is not a scientific concept because He invented science, rendering this reasoning irrelevant.
In “God: The Failed Hypothesis—How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist,” Victor J. Stenger offers this scientific argument against the existence of God:
In the upcoming argument, pretty much every premise has a problem with it, so I will have to deal with them one at a time. This will be fun.
1. Hypothesize a God who plays an important role in the universe.
God does play an important role in the universe. He made it in the first place, and He is constantly working in our souls. He did other things as well, such as inserting Himself into our history, dying, and rising again. However, apart from miracles, many of God’s actions are not actually scientific or deal with the laws of physics, because, as I said, God invented physics in the first place. Therefore, we should not expect any repeated consistencies in any even miraculous actions God does, as His main concern is with our spiritual wellbeing. Nor indeed do I think it is fair to God to do so. So yes, I agree with the first premise, but I am not sure I agree with what was probably intended by it.
2. Assume that God has specific attributes that should provide objective evidence for his existence.
As there are—for instance, His Omnibenevolence as is shown by the fact that we live in a moral universe where human beings are naturally disposed to praise good and punish evil or His Omnipotence, as is shown by the splendor of the universe, or His Oneness and Simplicity, as is shown by the general unity and fine-tuning of the universe. But, I assume, these people are not going to go with any of these.
3. Look for such evidence with an open mind.
That is good, and I applaud these people. However, if Mr. Stenger is looking by the method of the natural sciences for a being who is not part of the natural sciences or subject to them (He invented them), I think he is very much limiting his resources.
4. If such evidence is found, conclude that God may exist.
Very well. That is fair enough.
5. If such objective evidence is not found, conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a God with these properties does not exist.
That is also fair enough. I agree with more of this than I expected. However, I am still somewhat afraid what they mean is “scientific evidence”, which is narrowing a field of study. But let us continue.
This is basically how science would disprove the existence of any alleged entity. If God existed, there should be concrete evidence of His existence—not faith, but tangible, measurable, consistent evidence that can be predicted and tested using the scientific method. If we fail to find that evidence, then God cannot exist as defined.
“Not faith”—I have heard atheists cling to that a lot and put an insane amount of emphasis on the words “faith” and “believe” as if to claim that we have no evidence because we use that term. Seriously, I beg of you, write to me if you wish: give me a single example of one situation, outside of religion, where anyone would use the word “believe” to mean “accept a claim without any evidence to back it up”. I doubt it will be easy to find such a circumstance.
Now, as for tangible and measurable evidence, why should I expect that when trying to consider an intangible and immeasurable Being? Yes, we do have evidence based on His actions in the universe—we are evidence based on His actions in the universe. However, I have the feeling these people are looking for something else. But seriously, I would like to see Mr. Cline’s tangible scientific evidence for the validity of the laws of logic, or his tangible scientific evidence for the validity of the laws of arithmetic, or even his tangible scientific evidence for the statement, “If God existed, there should be […] tangible, measurable, consistent evidence that can be predicted and tested using the scientific method.” None of these can be substantiated tangibly.
Of course, nothing in science is proven or disproven beyond a shadow of any possible doubt. In science, everything is provisional. Being provisional is not a weakness or a sign that a conclusion is weak. Being provisional is a smart, pragmatic tactic because we can never be sure what we’ll come across when we round the next corner. This lack of absolute certainty is a window through which many religious theists try to slip their god, but that’s not a valid move.
That is true, and I can respect that, because scientists are always dealing with only a limited supply of data, for which reason science always has to change as new evidence presented itself. However, with equal truth, I would argue that God, quite wisely, for this very reason, did not concern Himself with making Himself scientifically verifiable according to rules that were not put forward until the Seventeenth Century. Instead, He went for a method that could be used just as effectively by Aristotle as it could by Mr. Cline if he got his epistemology right. Philosophy does not have this same doubt that natural science does. Not everyone can understand the theory of general relativity, but they can understand the theory of the Prime Mover or that effects come from causes, thus leading to one necessary Uncaused Cause. That is a thing that is not contingent on scientific development. Now one can disagree with the choices of evidence God decided to give us, but in that case, all you are doing is disagreeing with your Creator. You are free to accept the evidence that you are given or not, but I do not think it is wise to refuse evidence before you just because it cannot be illustrated by fancy equations on whiteboards.
In theory, it may be possible that someday we will come across new information that will lead us to further explore the God hypothesis. If the evidence described in the above argument were found, for example, that would justify a rational belief in the existence of the sort of god under consideration. It wouldn’t prove the existence of such a god beyond all doubt, though, because belief would still have to be provisional.
See my point above. Also, I would note Mr. Cline did not actually even address a single philosophical argument for God’s existence.
It may also be possible that the same could be true of an infinite number of other hypothetical beings and supernatural forces. Zeus or Odin, Christian or Hindu—every possibility of a God or gods is up for exploration.
But then again, most arguments for classical theism actually preclude the existence of Zeus or Odin, both of whom had causes of their own—the former having the Sky and Earth of his grandparents and the latter having a cow for his grandmother. Therefore, neither of them work in the theory of the “Prime Mover” or “Uncaused Cause”.
Finally, for such a proposition as “God exists” to have meaning to science, we need to define what “existence” in this case means. When it comes to God or a series of gods, their existence is dependent on evidence that they have had or continue to have an impact on the universe. In order to prove impact on the universe, there must be measurable and testable events that could best or only be explained by whatever this “God” is we are hypothesizing. Believers must be able to present a model of the universe in which some god is “either required, productive, or useful.”
God might explain why we see a chain of causes and effects throughout the universe in a better way than an infinite string of causes would. God might also explain the reason the universe is finely tuned. I could elaborate on these reasons, but I see no reason why I should when Mr. Cline seems unwilling to bring them up.
This is obviously not the case. Many believers work hard trying to find a way to introduce their god into scientific explanations, but none have succeeded. No believer has been able to demonstrate, or even strongly suggest, that there are any events in the universe that require a supernatural being to explain.
Instead, these constantly failing attempts end up reinforcing the impression that there is no “there” there—nothing for “gods” to do, no role for them to play, and no reason to give them a second thought.
The fact that you feel that way is noted. Feel free to explain if you wish. You say we “constantly fail”—in other words, we do put forth evidence, albeit evidence you do not find conclusive. Therefore, you are aware that we have evidence but rather than addressing any of it, you just go ahead and argue that science proves God does not exist from the assumption that we have no evidence. If I thought there was no evidence for God’s existence, I would be an atheist. Prove to me that my evidence is wrong, and even if you cannot prove to me that God does not exist per se, I will cease to believe. I eagerly await for you to address any of it.
So far, everyone who has tried to scientifically prove that God exists has failed. While it’s technically true that this doesn’t mean that no one ever will succeed, it is also true that in every other situation where such failures are so consistent, we don’t acknowledge rational or even serious reasons to bother believing.
And here the word “scientifically” is brought up again. The only way I could scientifically prove God exists is by pointing to various historical miracles. Although I find some rather convincing, I do not think they are necessary to show God exists. Nor indeed has Mr. Cline proven that a supernatural Being should be subject to the natural scientific method.
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