One of the many reasons people cite for believing God doesn’t exist is that there is no empirical evidence that he does, in fact, exist. I’ve been there, said that, believed that, and wholeheartedly set out in search of something, anything that would definitively prove the existence of God once and for all. Given the fact that this is a very naive undertaking–if such proof existed, someone would have uncovered it long ago–it was, of course, a failure. Now, I’m a Christian…how did I get here from “I need proof that I know doesn’t exist”? A lot of it was compromising that standard, but a lot of it was thinking in probabilities and logic. Logic cannot “prove” God exists, but I am 100% convinced that logic points to a very high probability that God exists. Combine that with personal testimonies–which are, admittedly, emotional rather than logical and therefore violate Aristotle’s rhetoric ideals–and I’m a Christian.
But this need for proof reveals an interesting paradox. For millenia of human existence, theism was the default and atheism the alternative. The paradigm seems to have shifted: atheism has become the default.
More interesting, in my opinion, is the contradiction revealed by this insistence on needing definitive proof for God’s existence. Richard Dawkins, the champion of science, is very adamant that one day science will explain everything in complete detail and God is not needed to understand the world. His terrible rhetoric aside (false dichotomy, straw man, binary thinking, etc.), he’s making a claim that is entirely unfounded and makes some extreme assumptions.
Side note: I pick on Dawkins because he’s the most popular example and he’s the self-proclaimed “Champion of Science” in the public eye. He is by no means the only example of this sort of thinking, perhaps not even the best, but he will suffice.
He is most known for his work in evolutionary psychology, a field he is entirely unqualified to be in (he’s a biologist; not a psychologist). Therefore I will give him a fighting chance and reference his work in evolutionary biology. He has contributed greatly to Evolutionary Theory, which does a very good job of explaining many, though certainly not all, of life’s questions about how we came to be. But it’s just that: a theory. It has not been and cannot be definitively proven. I am well aware of the scientific evidence required to make a hypothesis into a theory, but my point lies in the fact that theory is the highest level evolution can ever attain, it’s not a theorum. It can’t be definitively proven.
Dawkins’ et al’s assumption that science will one day explain every one of life’s quirks and anomalies is a bold one, and also unprovable. Until time travel is invented and people come back to us from the future, someone develops clairvoyance, or it happens, this will remain an infinite regress of logic into time. It’s also making the assumption that no immaterial realm exists. Science is necessarily bound to studying the material/physical/tangible world. And that’s fine. But to assume that is all there is in life is…well…unprovable, and dangerous. I’m not trying to belittle science, the number of societal improvements that are the direct result of scientific findings are astonishing, but there is no basis for assuming science is the end-all-be-all of knowledge. In fact, it’s a straight up contradiction: it’s drawing a conclusion based on inadequate study, namely that material science did not find anything immaterial, therefore the immaterial doesn’t exist? That doesn’t make sense. We understand a little bit of how the brain works, but we know very little, if anything, about the mind (which the more I think about, the more convinced I become that it must be immaterial). We know a great deal about plant biology, but we know nothing of its life. We can destroy it, but we can’t create life. I’m willing to accept that it’s possible that life is merely a complex organization of nucleic acids or whatever the latest scientific defintion/explanation is, but at current, I find it improbable. In the same way Dawkins claims that while we don’t know much about [insert cutting edge scientific field, e.g. neurology, here] at current does not mean it’s not explanable (which I agree with to a point), I’m going to make the claim that just because we haven’t realized the existence of the immaterial world does not mean it does not exist (though probably in a different fashion than the material world “exists”). But I can’t prove that, though neither can Dawkins.
The point is that you can’t prove theism to be true.
But neither can you disprove theism…or at least, I have yet to see it done. I’ve looked long and hard for something to disprove Christianity or theism in general and I’m still looking.
The other point is that you can’t prove atheism to be true.
Neither can you can’t disprove it…I’ve been trying for years and can’t do it, nor have I seen anyone else do it.
The paradigm of default (innocent until proven guilty or vice-versa?) is a whole ‘nother issue, interesting, but not for right now.
I would argue that logic points towards a probability that God exists, but I can’t prove it. But the fact that you can’t disprove it either means it is a viable alternative to mainstream atheism, which can be neither proven nor disproven as well…I’ll go so far as to give pantheism the benefit of the doubt and say it is a viable alternative as well since it cannot be proven nor disproven (I say that hesitently because I admit that my knowledge of pantheistic apologetics is very, very slim).
This was not written with an evangelical agenda, nor will I get into my reasons for being Christian as opposed to, say, a Muslim…that’s a different post, which may show up at some point, but who knows…
My point in writing this was to make a defense of Theism. Not all theists are stupid. Many are, certainly, but so are many atheists, so it’s very much a moot point.
So in closing, I have two questions for you:
Why are you a(n) (a)theist, and what would it take to convince you otherwise?
The Jaded Psychologist sends his love