"To believe there is NO God when you can't prove that anymore than I can prove that there is requires faith."
This is a quote lifted off of this group. Neither this specific quote nor its author are being singled out here; It is simply the most recent quote I could think of. It is merely an example being used. Discussion about faith, its different meanings, and the equivocation often used when talking about it in regards to atheism and theism, is outside the scope of this document.
The focus of this document is the idea that the premises "God exists" and "No god exists" are equally valid (or equally invalid). That is, the truth value for both of those premises is the same.
A brief digression before getting into the meat of the matter:
The above sentiment is often expressed by Christians in an attempt to put atheism on the same logic framework as theism. The problem with this is two-fold:
1. It, essentially, is tacit acknowledgement of the weak logic theism rests on. By attempting to drag atheism down to the level of theism, you first have to accept that theism exists on a logically lower level in the first place. The only other possibility is the absurd notion a Christian would go out of their way to raise atheism up to the logical level they believe theism rests on.
2. By making theism and atheism equal, they do nothing for the cause of theism. A person must make a choice, and if the choice is not made on a logical basis (since they are now logically equal) what criteria can one use? The only thing left would be Occam's razor, but that would favor atheism.
The scientific method is a series of steps, based in rationalism and empiricism. It is used as a method to see whether or not hypotheses represent an accurate model of the universe. The scientific method rests on several logical principles, induction and reductio ad absurdum, are often used. If the scientific method is applied to a hypothesis, and the hypothesis survives, it can be said that it is logically more valid than the hypothesis' negation.
It is often acknowledged that science cannot prove anything 100% true. This is a bit of an exaggeration. There are things that science can, indeed, prove 100% true. But these things are usually trivial. For example, I can prove whether or not the volume, mass, or charge of some particle is a certain value. But the utility of that measurement is nil. Only when I use induction to extrapolate a general rule about the universe does it gain potential usefulness. It is also at that poin, that it becomes impossible to prove the statement 100% true, since we are now making a claim about all such particles and it is impossible (either literally or practically) to perform all the measurements required for such proof.
For this argument we will make two such general statements:
"All objects, under only the force of gravity, near the surface of the Earth, will accelerate at 32.2ft/s^2"
"No god exists"
Also, for the purposes of this argument we will address their opposites:
"Not all objects, under only the force of gravity, near the surface of the Earth, will accelerate at 32.2ft/s^2"
The first premise can be reworded as:
"At least one object, under only the force of gravity, near the surface of the Earth, will not accelerate at 32.2ft/s^2"
For simplicity we will assign these premises labels:
O = "All objects, under only the force of gravity, near the surface of the Earth, will accelerate at 32.2ft/s^2"
G = "No god exists"
O' = "At least one object, under only the force of gravity, near the surface of the Earth, will not accelerate at 32.2ft/s^2"
G' = "God exists"
O is an excellent hypothesis for application of the scientific method. It makes a general statement about all objects and how they will behave under certain conditions. That is, it addresses a significantly large number of potential events. Its support will provide us a great deal of knowledge about the universe.
Like all hypotheses tested by the scientific method, it is not 100% provable. In order to prove it 100% true, we would have to measure the rate of acceleration of all objects, everywhere, all the time, since the beginning of the universe, to the end of the universe. Even if that were practical, one could correctly argue that just because all objects did follow O, that does not necessarily mean they had to.
So how do we convert O from a hypothesis to a solid theory if we cannot prove it 100% true? We test it. It cannot be 100% true, but it can be anywhere from 0% to just shy of 100% true. So how do we test it? First, we must determine if it is testable. That is, there must exist a test that can be performed, or observation that can be made, that has the real possibility of showing that it can be false. This feature is called "falsifiability" and is necessary for all scientific hypothesis and theories to have it.
In the case of O, it is most certainly falsifiable: an object can accelerate at a rate other than 32.2ft/s^2 (while still only being under the influence of gravity near the surface of the Earth). That is very easy to test: drop a bunch of objections and measure the rates at which they accelerate. (If you're clever like Galileo, you can roll them down inclines, which is easier to measure, and achieve the same results)
Essentially, we are genuinely trying to prove the hypothesis false. Each test that has the real possibility of proving the hypothesis false, but doesn't, will increase our confidence in the validity of that hypothesis. By confidence I don't refer to some vague emotion, but that the hypothesis literally becomes truer. The more tests we perform and fail to prove it false, the truer it becomes.
Now, let us consider O'. First of all it is not a good hypothesis in consideration for the scientific method since it only makes a claim on at least one object. Second, it cannot be falsified. Even if we measure all objects to be in accordance with O, that will not be disproof of O'. The advantage it does have, though, is that it can be proven true: observe an object that falls at a different rate than specific in O. So it can be 100% true. But until it is, its truth value is unknown.
A summary comparison of the premises O and O':
O Truth values ranging from 0% to an asymptotic value of 100% (always approaching but never reaching) with the ability to test the theory, thereby increasing its value toward that limit.
O' Truth values are either "Unknown" or 100% with no way to reliably test. (Tests can be performed but are inconclusive unless they prove the theory true).
So, unless O' is proven (which necessarily includes the disproof of O) and we perform tests to increase the truth value of O (even by a slight degree) then we are correct in saying that O is a more true, logical, and scientific premise to hold than O'.
Now we translate that for G and G'. Like O', G' is a statement that cannot be disproved since God can always be claiming to be hiding in some gap somewhere. It can be proven, however, by evidence arising of god's existence. So, like O', G' is either 100% true, or unknown.
This also applies for O and G. G can never be proven 100%, thus its truth values range from 0% to just shy of 100%. The only thing that we need to do is to test G. What test can we perform? While some may see this as an impasse, god is often assigned the attributes of omnipotence and omniscience. In situations where we are dealing with an entity that has neither, then I side with Epicurus when he asks "Then why call him god?" Omniscience and omnipotence remedies this situation and alleviates the need for us to develop a test ourselves. God has the knowledge and power to present the evidence necessary to prove his existence. Our participation is passive, but this is not a problem. Thus all we have to do is sit and observe the universe. Every moment that passes by that is not validation of god's existence increases the validity of G.
G Truth values ranging from 0% to an asymptotic value of 100% (always approaching but never reaching) with the ability to test the theory, thereby increasing its value toward that limit.
G' Truth values are either "Unknown" or 100% with no way to reliably test. (Tests can be performed but are inconclusive unless they prove the theory true).
So, unless G' is proven (which necessarily includes the disproof of G) and we perform tests to increase the truth value of G (even by a slight degree) then we are correct in saying that G is a more true, logical, and scientific premise to hold than G'.
Replacing back our original wording:
So, unless god is proven to exist (which necessarily includes disproving his non-existence) and we perform tests to increase the truth of god's nonexistence (even by a slight degree) then we are correct in saying that "God does not exist" is a more true, logical, and scientific premise to hold than "God exists".
First, the scientific method and the process by which a hypothesis becomes a theory are, admittedly, greatly simplified; though I contend I have hit all the major points. There are, of course, other issues that are taken in account (for example, the area that the theory addresses and its potential relationship with other theories, a more thorough analysis of its utility and the ability to test, etc.)
Second, one may wonder why, if the above is true, "God does not exist" is not officially made a scientific theory. This is answered by my previous caveat regarding the other issues. The utility of the hypothesis is nil since science already proceeds without assuming god exists. Furthermore, with actual scientific theories, tests require some sort of quantifiable measurement, even when using mere passive observation.
Third and lastly, even with omniscience and omnipotence we still run into the problem of god's will and some may argue that god can prove his own existence, he simply does not *want* to. This is not an issue for several reasons:
• The god typically involved is the Christian God, which has directly interfered in human affairs, thus cannot claim to not want to prove itself since such interaction would constitute proof.
• That the universe could exist in a fashion contrary to the will of an omnipotent, omniscience entity is nonsensical. As humans we have a keen awareness of the difference between our desires and reality because we lack the ability or knowledge to make them come true. This is not an issue for an entity that knows everything and can do anything. Thus the universe necessarily is what they desire. So, as far as any inhabitants of a universe are concerned, if the a god does not want to be proven, then that god does not exist.
• If god is necessarily worthy of worship, then who are we to disagree if it doesn't want to be proven?
by Drafterman of AvC