I came across this article while surfing, “Scientifically, God Does Not Exist: Science Allows us to Say God Does Not Exist” (http://atheism.about.com/od/argumentsagainstgod/a/GodScience.htm). It moved me to write this piece. Firstly, let me get the formalities out of the way for full disclosure. I am a student of science and a software engineer by training which lends itself well to proof via empirical evidence.
On with the task at hand! As far as this article goes, it shows a profound ignorance for scientific principles. It is not possible to prove a negative! Proof of a negative would amount to a determination for all possible choices. And that is simply not possible. So, is it a catchy title aimed at drawing attention? Perhaps, so I’ll humor the author a bit. The piece contains the typical arguments that most Christians find offensive at best. However, the average Christian finds difficulty dismantling the central argument made by the article. Christian arguments are usually based on faith, something that does not carry salt in an atheistic world. The central thesis of the article is flawed. If you can’t easily see the flaw, allow me to dissect it. Science does not allow us to weigh in on the question of whether or not God exists (notice the uppercase). That is in fact, a false narrative. Science does not have an opinion on the matter and, in fact, science is fundamentally indifferent to the question. I’ll explain.
Science is a framework, a tool, one filled with limitations and shortcomings, that may be used to understand and explore the world that we live in. To attempt to use a tool to perform a task that it was not designed for is a reckless hack. Here’s a quick example. I am trying to open a door. I use a can opener on the door knob. Unable to open the door with the can opener, I conclude that the door cannot be opened. It sounds like science, has all the principles of science except that the tool was not designed to solve the task at hand! Therefore, any conclusion arising out of that experiment is fundamentally invalid from a scientific point of view. It makes no difference whether or not I was methodical in my approach to the door opening exercise.
Now let’s put this into context. Science, the tool, is simply a window into our world. It’s a very limited window but I think it is the best that we have from an empirical perspective. It’s limited because by my own observation, the kind of precision required to erect an object like the universe requires something well outside the bounds of the scientific framework. To claim that “this is the only window” shows reckless indifference in the least and deeply rooted in mental slavery (mine is better than yours complex). The fact of the matter is that there are many other windows into our world, religion (spirituality whatever you want to call it) being one of them – none being better than the other! Both bring different perspectives and each may be used to provide solutions for specific problems e.g., religion provides an answer to ‘why are we here?’, science provides an answer to why things work the way they do. It is not an all or nothing proposition; it never was.
By sleight of hand, the author is trying to promote science as the only process capable of discovering a truth. It’s a nice try, but it is dishonest. The justice system arrives at truth everyday by systematically eliminating what is not true until only the truth remains. It’s the best method we have in the legal system but it isn’t the only process for discovering truth. History also provides a framework for discovering truth and so on and so forth. When multiple windows are used, we get a better view of the world, similar to the way in which a pair of eyes provides better stereoscopic vision than a single eye. At times, they are juxtaposed creating a blind spot which serves absolutely no one; you can only see the edge of your nose with the help of a mirror or shutting one eye! The danger occurs when one camp declares it is the only viable window into the world. Both science and religion are equally guilty of that transgression and it doesn’t help us move forward as a people either, which is why I side-step the name calling and focus on framing the argument in a way where we, as a people, can move forward.
Part of the article mentioned above outlines 5 principles listed in God: The Failed Hypothesis — How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, Victor J. Stenger. I list the 5 principles here for convenience.
Hypothesize a God who plays an important role in the universe.
Assume that God has specific attributes that should provide objective evidence for his existence.
Look for such evidence with an open mind.
If such evidence is found, conclude that God may exist.
If such objective evidence is not found, conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a God with these properties does not exist.
I’ve not read the book, but the flaw in the arguments is pretty obvious. The last part is a false conclusion. Here’s a simple example: I’m looking for a spider in a room. I hypothesize that it is there. I assume it has attributes that allow it to spin a web. I go looking for the spider. If I don’t find the spider, science does not allow me to say that the spider does not exist. All science allows me to conclude is that I haven’t found the spider. My conclusion supports my finding (or lack of it.). There’s also the other problem of inventing attributes of a spider and assigning it to the spider based on my interpretation of what I think those attributes may be; but that’s for another day.
Searching for God through science and not finding him is not empirical evidence that God does not exist. Now, what if I found a cobweb? Can I conclude that the spider exists? No, science does not support that conclusion either because something else could have spun the web. Science is black and white; there are no shades of grey. I may theorize that the spider exists based on what I have found but understand that there is no empirical evidence to support this conclusion. See?
Christians believe that God isn’t measurable and so, any attempt to do so is akin to a declaration of war on Christianity. However, truth be told, science is disinterested in this topic because it is not possible to build an experiment to test the theory (what are you going to build? How are you going to build it? How are you go to remove bias? etc). It really is that simple. I really wish we would stop these pointless arguments about proving or disproving God. Science and religion are two separate windows. You’ll need to come over to my side to see my view of the world and I, yours. It doesn’t work any other way; I can’t describe what you see from my window, and it is disingenuous on my part to invalidate your view. In context, you won’t convince an atheist that God exists using religious arguments. Atheist won’t convert Christians either because Christians impose a limitation on science. If you can’t see the futility of the exercise, then you are doomed to repeat the cycle ad infinitum.