Saturday, 18 July 2009

Evidence claimed for God's existence

So now, I've been through all the major classes of reasons offered to me by Christians of my acquaintance as to why I should believe in God

It's worth going through a brief recap.

In Is religious belief rational? I discussed biblical inerrancy, and claims generally that the Bible is of and by itself sufficient evidence for God.

I also addressed the Argument from Numbers, the claim that the existence of lots of believers is evidence of the truth of their beliefs.

In More arguments for God I went through various "origins" arguments: the argument from first causes, and both the biological and cosmological versions of the argument from design.

In Miracles great and small I looked at Biblical miracles, "medical miracles", long-odds coincidences (which I call "Little miracles"), the claim that science hasn't explained everything so you can't disprove God, and the concept of the Unfalsifiable God. (To fit all these into a single article, I had to scamer rather quickly through those concepts. I would have liked to do a whole article on each of those topics, I think that they could have stood it, but CiF Belief weren't keen on commissioning what would have become a long series had I done so.)

In Moral arguments for God I moved into territory which has been discussed lately in terms of "Belief in Belief": that people behave better when they believe, that Christians are leaders in understanding morality, and that without a divine law-giver we wouldn't have a sense of morality. The first two of these are arguments for the desirability of God's existence, not for the truth of it. The third is undermined by the fact that we have evolved as social animals, and so our emotions and sense of morality has evolved to offer reasons to co-operate with each other, and this is an explanation that does not require God.

Then in Personal Experiences of God I dealt with mystical experiences and why they are not persuasive.

I think this covers pretty much the full field of arguments commonly put forward in favour of God. The comments in the various articles didn't bring up any really significant new twists.

Right at the start of this series, in The cosmic detective, I wrote:
In the absence of anything better, it seems to me that the scientific approach is the best available way of tackling the question of the existence and characteristics of the theistic God. But it could be argued that God's characteristics are so important to us that even science is not good enough for the job. If you think that, then you need to decide what alternative approach to use instead, and to justify why it is superior.
And this is the key issue. None of the "evidence" offered remotely passes muster by scientific standards. Either it contains logical fallacies, or it involves "cherry-picking" favourable evidence while ignoring or suppressing unfavourable evidence, or it involves a retreat into untestable propositions. No serious attempt was even made by those commenting in favour of belief in God to address the issues in a scientific way. But also nobody has made any serious attempt to suggest that a scientific approach is inappropriate and some other method is superior for the purpose.

In the first article HappyClappy made some attempt at doing so, but that amounted either to going on an Alpha course (Adam Rutherford is in the process of describing the detailed shortcomings of that approach) or observing whether theists behave better after conversion. It is certainly possible to study that, but all that would provide would be evidence of the effect of believing, not evidence of the truth of the beliefs.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if u have looked at the books from
    particularly the 3 books of 'The Handbook for the New paradigm'.
    it talks about the involvement of thought in the creation of the material world.
    i think it is a different argument all togather, involving spirituality without God