Possibility of evidence

The below item was left as a comment:

This is something I struggle with. You say that you do not believe in God because there is a lack of evidence, but there can never be evidence either way. Science is not structured to make any statements about spirituality, so there will never be evidence for or against the existence of a god. There is no experiment that science could come up with to say a god does or does not exist. Therefore, you cannot say that you disbelieve in God because of a lack of evidence, at least not in the scientific definition of evidence, repeatable experimental results.

The problem with Western religion is that it is based on dogma. This is how it is because God said so, you can’t change it (unless you get together wear goofy outfits and pray long and hard about it). Western religions want you to accept something simply because it is written somewhere. Instead, religion should not be about worship. Religion is a connection to the spiritual. No spiritual method of gaining knowledge could be compatible with science because then it would be science, cold and ready to throw out results that don’t fit established theories or rules.

The problem with Western belief systems, science and religion, is they are quick to throw out that which is new. It takes decades, sometimes centuries, for the West to change its mind. How long did we believe the Sun revolved around the Earth? Knowledge must be experienced without boxing it in. There should be no concept of science or religion as knowledge, simply knowledge, that which we experience. By sharing those experiences, we learn about the world we live in, always open to knew knowledge, readily accepted. It is certainly difficult to come up with any generalities like science does, but knowledge would be far more complete, instead of full of holes like our current system.

Sorry for the rant. I’m taking a Phil class on Native American philosophy and it’s quite compelling.

You begin by saying that there cannot be evidence for or against God because the subject is beyond science, but you end by talking about spiritual methods of gaining knowledge. Wouldn’t such spiritual means of gaining knowledge, if they are valid, be evidence for or against the existence of a deity?

Personally, I do not rule out non-science-based methods of gaining knowledge. For example, I believe that personal revelation could be a compelling reason to believe in a deity (that is, God could make me believe in Him if He desired to). I also think that it may be philosophically possible to prove that a deity exists without appealing to science, in the same way that it is philosophically possible to prove that certain descriptions of a deity are impossible.

I agree that people can take a long time to change their mind about something. I think that in general modern science is much less susceptible to this bias than religion, though. Look at how long it took for quantum physics and relativity to be accepted — considering how radically they changed the way we view the world, I’d say that they were accepted quite quickly, largely because the evidence for them was overwhelming.

Is resistance to change a Western phenomena? I don’t know about that. Perhaps there are non-Western cultures that accept new information more quickly. I would be interested to hear about this, and wonder how often they quickly accept information that turns out to be incorrect (not that Western science always gets it right).

Finally, let me return to your point about science not being able to show by experiment that God does or does not exist. Although you are right that science cannot directly test whether or not God exists, it can test whether or not God is necessary. If science can find sufficient explanations for all natural phenomena without appeal to a deity, then science has proven that God — whether He exists or not — is not necessary to explain the world around us. On the other hand, if science discovers that there is no possible explanation for some phenomena, then that might be taken as evidence that we have found something science is incapable of dealing with. Fortunately, science has not run into this problem.

Posted on September 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Evidence

6 Responses

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  1. Written by Joakim Rosqvist
    on September 28, 2009 at 7:38 am
    Reply · Permalink

    How could science ever come to the conclusion that “there is no possible explanation” for some phenomena? I don’t see that outcome being part of the scientific method. You could always come up with some new idea tomorrow for a problem that we are clueless about today.

    • Written by ideclare
      on September 28, 2009 at 9:55 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      I think that, in an extreme case and after thorough investigation, it could be argued that something is inexplicable by science. For example, if it turned out that the digits of PI encoded an obvious, unambiguous, detailed message about the existence of God, and that this message existed in any language you cared to use, then I think you would have a heck of a time arguing that a non-supernatural, scientific explanation might be found in the future.

  2. Written by Joakim Rosqvist
    on September 29, 2009 at 5:25 am
    Reply · Permalink

    That’d be up to the definition of “supernatural”. Let’s say some entity living in World has a computer that can run a simulation of what we now perceive as our universe including every single particle interaction and has designed the simulation to deliberately include both us and that message in (early digits of) PI. If the message also specifies some way of communicating with the “entity” and other parts of World, we might learn how World works and figure out how and why the simulation with us in it was created. I.e. “natural” – the domain of science – would then be anything pertaining to World.

  3. Written by Born again Atheist
    on September 29, 2009 at 12:11 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I think the fact that God does not leave himself open to be questioned by science is suspect. In most religions God is capable of manifestation in a form that is testable by Science, whether that form be a burning bush, a talking donkey or a man who was conceived by supernatural means. However, God has ceased to manifest himself in these ways in a time in which enough is known about chemistry and biology to determine if these things can be explained by known natural processes or if these things are beyond our experience.

    It is true that Science will never say that there is no natural explanation for a phenomenon. For all we know, God himself is a natural phenomenon which we currently do not have the knowlegde and tools to test. However, we do know that natural phenomena were often attributed to God or gods when people did not have an explanation for those phenomena through their limited technology and it would be a large step toward re-confirming the existence of God if there were a testable manifestation that defied understanding by our science.

  4. Written by Dr Donald B. MacGowan
    on September 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Quote: “The problem with Western belief systems, science and religion, is they are quick to throw out that which is new. It takes decades, sometimes centuries, for the West to change its mind. How long did we believe the Sun revolved around the Earth?”

    What on Earth…? It is precisely BECAUSE western religion (mainly the Roman Catholic Church) suppressed new scientific discoveries and throttled scientists, for more than a THOUSAND years, that ideas such as heliocentrism took so long to catch on in general in Western thought–it wasn’t news to the scientists (those who were not burnt at the stake or under house arrest). Science, in fact, is all about finding new data, re-collating old data into new hypotheses, spawning and evaluating and testing new ideas, validating and falsifying them, and incorporating the good ones into new hypotheses and moving on. See how many times I got to use the word “new”?

    The problem is not with what your commenter has said so much as with his astounding ignorance of the history of science and the arrogance with which he puts forth his intellectually bankrupt nonsense. You, unfortunately, did not take a great opportunity to do a little education where a very embarrassing void of knowledge existed.

    As the author of three bogs myself I know it can be hard to continually think up new topics, day after day, to write about–here is a brilliant one that should occupy you for years and spur much comment that will boost your readership.

    You’re welcome.

    Oh, and ideclare? Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter…in other words, how many spans of its diameter will a wheel make if it is rotated once along its circumference. Has nothing to do with any godz, mysteries, vague know-nothing-new-age-warm-and-fuzzy bullshit. Very concrete. God does not hide in basic fundamentals of the High School classes you failed to comprehend. FAIL.

  5. Written by Joakim Rosqvist
    on September 30, 2009 at 12:44 am
    Reply · Permalink

    MacGowan: The idea of a message in PI comes from Carl Sagan’s novel “Contact”. There is clearly no way for us or even a hypotetical more advanced alien species to force a message into the early decimals of PI. That is why a long and detailed message – if it were to be found there – could be interpreted as coming form a supernatural entity.
    (Although one might argue that sufficiently advanced aliens might have access to technology able to remote-control our computers such that they would “find” any suitable message and were we could not detect the manipulation).

    As for Galileo being in house arrest, he partly had himself to blame. He implied that one would have to be an idiot to believe that the churchs’s version was true. Tycho Brahe, Kepler and others before him compared and contrasted Ptolemaois’ and Copernicus’ models without getting into trouble with the church.

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