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Friday, April 21, 2006

Why an atheist doesn't want God's existence disproved

I just read an amazing blog post, at The Panda's Thumb. (This is a multi-author blog specializing in attacking Intelligent Design.)

The author began by stating that he believes there is a possible procedure which science could use to prove or disprove the existence of God. He describes this procedure.

Then he indicated that he believes that God does not exist, because evidence of the type that would prove His existence has not been found, and because there is evil in the world.

He went on, to my amazement, to state that a disproof of this type is equivalent to Intelligent Design belief:

Indeed, it is the same diagnosis of exclusion that intelligent-design creationists use when they claim that we cannot figure out how the bacterial flagellum has evolved, so therefore it did not.

In addition to making a scientific disproof of God suspect, the author says that, if science disproved the existence of God, it would be a disaster for science, so he doesn't want this to happen. In his words:

The argument that science has disproved God, besides being wrong, puts religious believers who support science into an untenable position and risks alienating precisely those people whose support we desperately need.

In other words, here's an (I guess) atheist who gives some credit to Intelligent Design arguments, and who also thinks that scientists should be careful not to try to disprove the existence of God, or, if they think they have, shouldn't trumpet it. Wow! The comments are interesting, too.

My take on this is:
1) If you assume that there is no God, or god, then your science (and your art, and, for that matter, your cooking) are going to reflect that, and you aren't going to find him by practicing these. The converse is also true. If you believe that there is an omnipotent God, they your science, and other aspects of your life, will be colored by that.
2) God has revealed himself to us in both the Bible and in nature. Hence, if understood properly, the two will be compatible and complementary. Our understanding of both of these is not perfect.
3) Hebrews 11:3 says that God is found in nature by faith. I can't prove that you can't find God by experiments, but I don't believe that you can.


Elliot said...

I like Martin Gardner's take on this - using The Man Who Was Thursday as his illustration, he argues that when God's back is to us, all we see is a scary, chaotic universe (ie, purely natural theology). It's only when God turns his face to us and lets us know He is a person (the Incarnation, revelation), that we can start to see that his back and his front are both parts of the same person.

Elliot said...

PS: And I agree with you - there's no such thing as a totally objective science or philosophy that could 'prove' or 'disprove' a question as big as "Does God exist?" Your results are going to reflect your prior assumptions, the data that you think is relevant. You get out what you put in.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Elliot. I really must read some Chesterton!

Mike the Geek said...

I would submit that, in the absence of a rational creator, there is no solid basis for doing science other than "it seems to work at the moment." Science assumes a rational, consistent, ordered universe, not a "scary, chaotic" one. Otherwise there is no a priori reason for the assumptions that what happens today happened yesterday and will happen tomorrow, or that the processes that operate in Texas will also be operating on Jupiter.

Martin LaBar said...

Mike, thanks.

I agree that there was (and is) a rational creator, but it seems to me that it is possible to believe that the universe is orderly and always has been so, having been around from the beginning, and that it is orderly without having been planned that way.

It's not just science that depends on order, it's life itself.