Is God Scientifically Testable?

Lily (of Peaceful Atheist) asks “Is God Scientifically Testable?” Well, it depends on what you mean by “God”. But probably not. Thoughts?

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17 Responses to Is God Scientifically Testable?

  1. samuelprime says:

    Many people have ‘tested’ or ‘tried’ God in their lives and discovered evidence that He does indeed. It is a very different kind of ‘testing’ from that of scientific experimentation, of course, but nevertheless it is one mode.

  2. globalizati says:

    Samuel–what sort of tests are you thinking of?
    I think it’s important to note that others have tested/tried God and found the evidence wanting; one person’s subjective experience can be meaningful to them, but is hard to generalize to others who have different experiences.

  3. samuelprime says:

    Personal and private testing in one’s life. It is true that some found it wanting, as you say, but it seems a great deal more, from various walks of life and different religious backgrounds, who found testing God in their lives quite a reality—thru changed lives, much greater energy, hope, and generally complete turn around in their lives. If we go by their numbers, and the real effects of the observable changes in their lives, this could indicate some sort of objectivity to their experiences and some sort of evidence to the “God Hypothesis.”

  4. Irritable says:

    Whether the goal is to affirm or refute, God-as-hypothesis is bad science. What the anecdotal evidence you offer (and the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”) suggests is that there might be some kind of social or psychological benefit to the idea of God or belief in God — which, as I suggest in my comments over on Lily’s blog, is a different conversation that doesn’t have much to do with whether or not God really exists.

  5. morsec0de says:

    If someone makes a claim about a god that has effects the universe, then it can be tested.

    For example, the claim that the sun is pulled across the sky by Apollo in a golden chariot is a scientifically testable claim. Can we scientifically claim that Apollo doesn’t exist? No. But we can say that, scientifically, no being pulls the sun across the Earth’s sky with a chariot.

  6. globalizati says:

    morse–I disagree. A religious claim like “the sun is pulled across the sky by Apollo in a golden chariot” unless it is meant to be completely, absolutely literal. I don’t think most religious assertions are meant that way. I think some narrow sets of religious beliefs/claims could be demonstrably disproved (someone claiming that prayer gets better results than vaccines in preventing smallpox, for example) but most beliefs–including the belief that a Creator God made everything and occasionally intervenes in the physical world–aren’t so easily falsified.

    Also, Irritable’s right that the personal ‘testing’ samuelprime describes is at best proof that, for whatever reason, a significant portion of humans find belief in God useful. Usefulness does not prove truth. I think if we were to really ‘go by the numbers’ we would find that in the whole of human history there have been many more people who held views best described as polytheistic/animistic rather than monotheistic. That’s no more proof that animism is true than the number of monotheists today proves that Yahweh exists. Objectivity doesn’t come from aggregation…

  7. samuelprime says:

    Irrit, but you just called ‘it’ anecdotal, but for many it isn’t merely that. You personally could choose to detach God (of course, assuming He exists for the sake of discussion) from the benefit people derive from the idea of God, but it is possible that they are one and the same. One can assume they are distinct (as you may choose) or one may equally assume they are quite intimately related (as religiously inclined people tend to do). In either case, we make assumptions about their relationship—and of course the believer assumes something (we won’t be easy on him either). But the believer would be more inclined to believe that his/her belief system (a set of assumptions, let’s say) acquires greater reality the more he/she finds effects that it induces in their lives. The commonality of their experiences and the commonality of their effects is some sort of objectivity (at least in some sense of the word—being a shared set of experiences).

    morsec0de, how can you say that “scientifically, no being pulls the sun across the the Earths sky with a chariot”? I suspect that you perhaps intended something like: “on the basis of the scientific method (so far as we know), we cannot maintain that a being pulls the sun across the the Earths sky with a chariot.” That is, that assertion has to first supply some scientific meanings to the terms “being” (aside from mankind), “chariot”, etc. Also, calling God Appolo or any other name could be legit since a being can be called different names by different religions and cultures (Apollo, Zues, Allah, the Father, Elohim, Yahwah) but could still exist. I’m sure different languages had different names and beliefs about the heavens, but the heavens still exists.

    Perhaps, global, usefulness is not ‘truth’ in the sense of mathematical and scientific truth, but perhaps is some other order of ‘truth.’ Aren’t there many different truths? I’m a mathematician by training. And I find that truth depends on the system you use to start with. I say this in order to illustrate what I meant by saying “some other order of ‘truth’.” For example, in geometry whether you assume the parallel postulate or not you get different geometries. If you do, you get plane Euclidean geometry that we learned about in school. If you don’t, or if you assume some other axiom contrary to it, you get a number of different geometries (‘other truths’), never known about before, but which were discovered in late 1700’s and 1800’s. And some of these weird non-Euclidean geometries (hyperbolic, elliptic, and some a combination of these), which seemed ‘useless’ at the time, turned out to be extremely useful in Einstein’s work in his theory of gravitation. So in this case, a very useful geometric system turned to be taken more like a truth—even a scientific truth. So, as a mathematician, I can see usefulness as possibly defining some kind of truth—at least in some interesting cases. I don’t necessarily say that this will necessarily apply to God and religion, but it shows that perhaps something like it may be at work or relevant.

    If objectivity does not come from aggregation, does that not then sort of undermine the shared agreement scientists have on the outcome of experiment because scientists are also aggregates? (Esp if there is some sort of theoretical interpretation in the process of experimentation?)

    By the way, if you look at the history of science you will find out a lot of unpleasant things—even ‘unscientific’—which were part of its development and birth. The history and philosophy of science are quite interesting areas and they’re anything but ‘clean’—and many of what we don’t consider ‘scientific’ were otherwise back then.

  8. Irritable says:

    samuelprime, thank you for supporting my case. At least you seem to be conceding that God is not a testable hypothesis, because you’ve gone from there to offer a number of arguments why belief in God is not necessarily unreasonable — but on completely different grounds.

    I’m not suggesting that God’s non-falsifiability is slam-dunk evidence of God’s non-existence. Nor am I suggesting that truth should be limited to falsifiable claims (though scientific truth is and should be) or that people who come to different philosophical conclusions than me are automatically nutters.

    The question at hand is: “Is God scientifically testable?” The answer is no. You’ve offered very interesting arguments about a different question.

  9. samuelprime says:

    At least you seem to be conceding that God is not a testable hypothesis, because youve gone from there to offer a number of arguments why belief in God is not necessarily unreasonable but on completely different grounds.

    I did? Irritable, that must have been some hamster dropping on my part! I think God is not testable (today) as you would test chemical elements in a lab. However in the laboratory of one’s personal experience it is possible to test the reality of God in one’s life. In the lives of many God appears to exist, while in some others not. So, if I did, I didn’t mean to say that God is never testable in every sense of the word. Perhaps as of yet we do not have the tools or intelligence to make such tests of God in a scientific way, but in the future … who knows? I am in no position to rule it in or out. As I see it, it is not an open shut case since it could be more because of our human limitations than anything. For example, there are scientific ideas that are not testable. Like the Big Bang’s idea of an incredibly small ‘cosmic egg’ that exploded into the current universe. We cannot produce and test that cosmic egg since no one saw it or can apparently actually carry out such experiment. Also, there are some ideas out there like by the great Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg on the multiverse theory (many universes), all mathematically and scientifically presented, but the other multiverses are not scientifically testable. There is a fair bit in science that isn’t scientifically testable (no one has or in fact can see the atom with the electrons literally orbiting it). So in the case of God, it would hardly be a surprise that He is not (at least not yet) testable according to the limited requirements of science. (You love your girlfriend with all your heart, but there’s no way you can scientifically prove that—though I’ll believe you.) That’s in fact why in science we have theories, so many of which cannot be said to be proven even if they are quite successful (since after all they get to be replaced by more successful ones). These theories gain their respect not because they are proven (as in mathematical proof) but because many of their consequences agree with experience, have a strong explanatory power, and if they can predict new things we didn’t know (which we eventually find)—like Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (which was amazing on all these qualities). Nevertheless, it is still regarded as a theory, not fact, in spite of it amazing successes.

    I’m not suggesting that Gods non-falsifiability is slam-dunk evidence of Gods non-existence. Nor am I suggesting that truth should be limited to falsifiable claims (though scientific truth is and should be) or that people who come to different philosophical conclusions than me are automatically nutters.

    I understand, thanks for clarifying your position, and I agree.

    The question at hand is: Is God scientifically testable? The answer is no.

    My short answer is (1) perhaps not yet (maybe one day we’ll be able to see more direct evidence of that ‘cosmic egg’ of the Big Bang, just not yet), and (2) in the realm of faith, tests can be carried out in one’s life.

    And that’s my hamster dropping for the day. (Hope it wasn’t too smelly.)

  10. globalizati says:

    Your definitions of scientific, falsification, theory, fact, and so forth are either so different from what scientists and philosophers mean when they use them that trying to discuss this with you will be meaningless. And if you study up on it, the Big Bang theory is testable, as are many theories that don’t involve the replication of an event. What matters is that the theory is testable or falsifiable, not whether one can be there when it happened.

  11. samuelprime says:

    You said “either” but didn’t give the second alternative. I assure you that I use words as they are commonly used by scientists and philosophers (being a mathematician who studied science and philosophy). Did you read Einstein’s early papers? Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn on the philosophy of science? I talk to people in these areas all the time and they have no problem … but I now realize I may have cause you some irritation.

    The point I was making is that not every idea in a scientific theory can be testable, as some people think, but more of the whole theory, with its stated assumptions. The trick is that whatever its assumptions, it needs to make conclusions that we can test. But the success of a test does not prove the theory, only ‘supports’ it. Since the converse of a statement need not be valid care should be exercised.

  12. Jay Ballou says:

    “thru changed lives, much greater energy, hope, and generally complete turn around in their lives”

    Sounds like a placebo effect. Really and truly, if you think that this is “testing God” or that such consequences on people’s lives of believing in God is evidence of God’s existence, then your understanding of evidence, testing, logic, causation, etc. is so grossly impoverished and erroneous that it’s a waste of time trying to converse with you.

  13. Irritable says:

    “The point I was making is that not every idea in a scientific theory can be testable, as some people think, but more of the whole theory, with its stated assumptions. The trick is that whatever its assumptions, it needs to make conclusions that we can test. But the success of a test does not prove the theory, only ’supports’ it. Since the converse of a statement need not be valid care should be exercised.”

    I really have no quarrel with this, nor did I think it was the matter at hand. Yes, care should be exercised — and positing something so slippery and polysemic as “God” as a theoretical explanation is scientifically careless. It might be philosophically tenable, but how many times do I need to point out that this is a different conversation?

    The realm of faith is not science. Philosophy of science is not science. Making philosophical inferences from scientific data is not scientific testing. God is a lousy hypothesis, scientifically, because we cannot even agree on what, exactly, we would be testing. Theories like evolution and the big bang work because they allow for falsification. They cannot be tested directly, but they predict certain features that can. There is no scientifically verifiable evidence that can point conclusively to God’s unambiguous existence. This does not rule out the possibility on a philosophical basis, nor does it even touch ontological existence or non-existence as such.

    This is not to deny that there is a broad realm of human experience that does not make itself readily available for scientific analysis. In fact, for some us, the most important things of life fall outside the realm of science proper, and rightly so.

  14. samuelprime says:

    Sounds like a placebo effect. Really and truly, if you think that this is testing God or that such consequences on peoples lives of believing in God is evidence of Gods existence, then your understanding of evidence, testing, logic, causation, etc. is so grossly impoverished and erroneous that its a waste of time trying to converse with you.

    And you think that by simply calling it a ‘placebo effect’ that that automatically makes it one? What is indeed a very interesting psychological phenomenon, and one that I have seen time and again, is that people stoop down to lower levels of discussion by resorting to ad hominems when they reach the limit of their intellects because they don’t know how to manage it intelligently. When the course of argument appears to work to their advantage they pretty much focus on the subject matter and take the high road, but when things aren’t going their way, they tend to take the low road. Consequently, one can attribute such behavior on purely psychological grounds.

    And as for the current issue, yes, there are many levels of testing. Within science there are many levels and degrees of testing and degrees of assurance, and many tests are indirect and inconclusive. If the adoption of a system proves to have many positive effects for an individual then that would provide some degree of evidence for it. Does it give complete total 100% proof? No, it won’t but it would be evidence of some sort nevertheless, at least for that individual and others of the same-shared experiences. In science we seldom have complete total 100% proof—that’s why theories are still called theories even after they’ve passed several tests. Einstein’s theory, even after the many successful tests that it passed, is still called ‘Einstein’s theory’ (not Einstein fact).

    It will help you to know that a scientific theory can be quite successful and yet not be ‘the truth’. For example, Fermi’s theory of weak interactions.

    positing something so slippery and polysemic as God as a theoretical explanation is scientifically careless.

    Why? There are many scientists who believe in God and think that such a hypothesis is quite plausible when dealing with matters regarding the origin of the universe and the laws of physics. Given that God is, by definition, the source of creation of the universe, that would hardly be careless.

    It might be philosophically tenable, but how many times do I need to point out that this is a different conversation?

    You are not quite in a position to dictate what the conversation ‘is’ nor what limits you may wish to place upon it. It should have been clear to you that this issue touches on many other issues that are related to it.

    The realm of faith is not science.

    Agreed. Though there are assumptions in science that are taken on faith.

    Making philosophical inferences from scientific data is not scientific testing.

    The philosophy of using Non-Euclidean geometry to formulate Einstein’s gravitational equations could be a counter-example to your claim. You also have Einstein’s philosophy of causality that conflicts with quantum theory’s non-causality (his famous “God does not play dice”). It might help you to know and take note of the fact that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Theory rest on fundamentally contrary philosophical foundations, which currently theoretical physicists are trying to harmonize.

    God is a lousy hypothesis, scientifically, because we cannot even agree on what, exactly, we would be testing.

    Who’s “we”? All humans? Not all humans will agree with all aspects of science, and even those who work on the same area of science are not always in agreement. There are prominent biologists and paleontologists with PhDs who do not agree with Darwinism (Stephen Gould and Niles Eldridge). There are astrophysicists and cosmologists who do not agree with the Big Bang (Fred Hoyle). There are physicists who do not agree with the ‘chance’ philosophy behind quantum theory—Einstein was one of them. So if you apply your narrow criterion (which seems rather inexperienced), science too will be a victim of your criticisms. Things in science aren’t as simple and straightforward as you think.

    There is no scientifically verifiable evidence that can point conclusively to God’s unambiguous existence.

    Neither is there scientific verifiable evidence that can point conclusively to the Big Bang, evolution, and many scientific theories. You’ve added the severe ‘conclusively’ predicate suggesting there is 100% proof of scientific theories. I think you need to know more about science—and I mean the non-naive understanding of real science, and not simply confuse that with an atheistic philosophical or religious system.

    This does not rule out the possibility on a philosophical basis, nor does it even touch ontological existence or non-existence as such.

    If God is defined to be the creator of the universe, which for most people He is, then the issue would not just be merely philosophical since by definition God would then have an empirical connection with the universe. Einstein use to say that he wanted to know how God created the universe (and whether God had no choice but to create it in a specific way). The intelligence and order behind the universe could point to the existence of an intelligent creator behind it—it is not an outlandish possibility, and certainly not lousy just because we are limited in being able to test and understand it today. So much of what we could test today was untestable and unfalsifiable 100 and more years ago.

    Finally, lest anyone think from my comments that I’m ‘anti-science’ in the course of my rebuttals, I want to assure you that not only am I pro-science but in fact I love it (always have). And as much as I am often excited by its developments I treat it with caution, with the view that it best represents what we now ‘know’ or ‘think’—without claiming full certainty. I recall Einstein’s famous saying “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” Will the future of science and current theory be the same as they are today? Judging by the history and evolution of science, and how science has changed in the last 100 years, most likely it will be quite different. There is room, after all, for change and evolution of the subject. We will change, and hence so will the way we think and how we approach nature and perhaps what lies underneath it.

  15. Irritable says:

    “I think you need to know more about science—and I mean the non-naive understanding of real science, and not simply confuse that with an atheistic philosophical or religious system.”

    Yes, it really is interesting to notice when people reach for ad hominems.

    I did not intend “conclusively” as severely as you have read it. I am not an atheist apologist, nor do I identify as an atheist. I am no more ‘anti-religion’ than you are ‘anti-science.’ I am not ignorant or unaware of, nor do I have reason to suspect I am intellectually incapable of handling, the nuances of scientific theory. I don’t believe I have used the word “fact.” I have not claimed full certainty, or that science offers this. In fact most scientists, if not science itself, seem to presume a philosophical realism with which I am not comfortable (but the reasons for my discomfort are philosophical, not scientific).

    Furthermore, my reference to the parameters of the discussion have to do with the stated topic of the post: is God scientifically testable? Obviously my answer is in the negative. Yours would appear to be in the positive but so far, as interesting as your responses have been, you have not offered anything that convinces me of God’s scientific testability in a way that honors both words of that phrase. I am not trying to be the conversation police, I just want to be sure we are still discussing the same issue. If we veer off into something else, I might have different things to say.

    I am not suggesting that God is an unreasonable idea only held by nitwits. Contrary to yourself (and other of your interlocutors), I have not called into question anyone’s love of science or knowledge about science. Defining God as having an empirical connection to the universe does not make it so. It makes it a definition. This mitigates against God’s falsifiability because as potentially incriminating data come in that challenge our definition of God, we change the definition. In some ways this is the theological equivalent of changing a hypothesis to fit new evidence, but it proceeds by very different rules of discourse and is not terribly useful to scientists.

    By all means, do be gracious enough to correct my woeful naivete, but my understanding of scientific theory is that in order to be useful, a theory must predict testable outcomes: if theory X is tenable, we should see Y. If we test for and find Y, we have not yet disproven theory X. We have not proven X (I get this; you can spare us further lectures), but as long as X continues to be both fruitful in terms of explaining the phenomena it arose to explain and allows for testing that continues to verify the theory’s plausibility, it is a useful theory.

    I fail to see where God, as an hypothesis, offers testable conclusions. Of course if we define God as the creator of the universe, then the universe itself is all the evidence we need. It’s all very neat — but it is not science, at least for us unsophisticated rubes who like our science predicated on hard data and experimental evidence.

    You seem very close to agreeing in places, especially when you speak of the limits of scientific process for assessing truth. It is precisely because of those limits (“it best represents what we ‘know’ or ‘think’…”) that I reject the scientific testability of God.

    I would say similar things of God’s non-existence. Our more ardently atheistic friends might demur, but I don’t think that God is inherently more absurd, philosophically speaking, than a self-contained universe. Where I lose the Christian apologist is in my assertion that the converse is equally true: a self-contained universe is no more inherently absurd than a God (or gods, or life-force, or…etc.) capable of creating universes.

    Where I seem to lose you (and I’m not entirely sure why) is in my assertion that science is better off heuristically sticking with a self-contained universe, leaving each of us to determine where this becomes unsatisfying and we must wax philosophical or turn our thoughts to religion.

  16. samuelprime says:

    I did not intend conclusively as severely as you have read it. I am not an atheist apologist, nor do I identify as an atheist.

    Okay, thanks for making it clear. I will let you live.

    In fact most scientists, if not science itself, seem to presume a philosophical realism with which I am not comfortable (but the reasons for my discomfort are philosophical, not scientific).

    Although I, like them, am a ‘realist’ (in some sense), I still believe in a number of different ‘realities.’ Reality isn’t just material, corpuscular, it could be other things—much as waves can describe the behavior of light in experimental domains that the corpuscular theory cannot.

    is God scientifically testable? Obviously my answer is in the negative. Yours would appear to be in the positive but so far, as interesting as your responses have been, you have not offered anything that convinces me of Gods scientific testability in a way that honors both words of that phrase.

    The difficulty could be due to the vagueness in the question. It did not define what ‘God’ is, nor did it define the criteria for what ‘scientifically testable’ is. This leads people to substitute their own definitions and criteria for each of these concepts, leading to debates and endless disagreements. Also, when we define ‘testable’ it is based on our current standards of scientific testing, no guarantee that future criteria for ‘testing’ could be broader and more advanced.

    If God is defined by the order of intelligence behind or created the universe (following Einstein’s definition, say), and if ‘testable’ includes or allows evidence of the intelligence observed in creation, then the observed intelligence is a reflection of that higher order of intelligence behind it. That is a ‘test’ in some sense of the word and it is scientific because it was something independently noted by people ever since ancient times—down to modern day scientists. If we found a mechanical device, like a watch, on another planet around another star, we are liable to say that some intelligent creature built it. So why not the universe which is infinitely more complex?

    Contrary to yourself (and other of your interlocutors), I have not called into question anyones love of science or knowledge about science.

    Have I questioned anyone’s love of science? If you look back, you will see that I did not. I merely spoke of my love of science. I did question some of their knowledge of it, as can be clearly seen in the many specific examples that I have cited (which contradicted their claims), the sad lack of examples by them, and their preferred devolution into rhetoric.

    Defining God as having an empirical connection to the universe does not make it so. It makes it a definition.

    Of course, defining an object does not mean that it ‘exists’ or that it does ‘not exist.’ But rather it is to provide a common understanding as to what we mean by the word, so as to make the discussion meaningful. Our discussion, or debate, is whether there is evidence, or some tests of some kind, or observations, direct or indirect, that support existence of such an object. (And bearing in mind the spectrum of variations of testability itself and its degrees of strength.)

    This mitigates against Gods falsifiability because as potentially incriminating data come in that challenge our definition of God, we change the definition.

    Not if we stick, as we have, with the core definition of ‘God’ as we described above. That aspect of the definition has not changed and has been the common denominator. In this discussion I am not going by the definition of one specific religion—nor am I adding super-qualities like ‘omnipotent,’ ‘omniscient,’ etc.

    In some ways this is the theological equivalent of changing a hypothesis to fit new evidence, but it proceeds by very different rules of discourse and is not terribly useful to scientists.

    That’s a strange claim to make: that scientists don’t find God a useful hypothesis, as if all scientists think like that. It’s amusing that as much as you deny being atheist, you often play by their rules. Did you know that about 40% of American scientists believe in a personal God? One of them is Francis Collins who is director of the Human Genome Project. That excludes scientists who believe in a non-personal God, but still as creator (people like Einstein). There are some 27 Nobel Laureates in science who believe in God. I would argue that God is a terribly useful hypothesis in it accounts for this vastly complex order in the universe and explains the harmony of its laws, as well as it helps to show that the universe was created by one and the same ‘hand’ and ‘mind’ in the way so many things in it work with such harmony and such fitness. That’s the same idea behind the unification of the 4 forces of nature, that they are different aspects of the same one force, which has not been observed nor likely will, but they believe it based on indirect evidence (and experience). Many great scientists, after deeper reflection, have expressed views similar to the following one by Charles Darwin:

    Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.

    … but my understanding of scientific theory is that in order to be useful, a theory must predict testable outcomes

    Our observations of the numerous complexities of nature, as Darwin’s quote says, reflects test after test in themselves of God’s existence. Coming from people who are so close to nature, as scientists are, and then have so many of them arrive at that same conclusion regarding God is, at least, some significant testimony on its testability. It is a much more plausible hypothesis than the hypothesis of ‘blind chance’ which requires no intelligence.

    If you believe that God (intelligence) is untestable scientifically, then how about the contrary hypothesis that it was by ‘blind chance’? Is that scientifically testable? I say it is testable, and it has been falsified being as it is in direct contradiction with nature’s utter complexity. A number of people treat ‘chance’ as if it is their ‘god’ who ‘created the world’—the only problem is that it requires infinitely more faith to believe so much intelligence is a result of blind chance than the result of Great Intelligence. Take your pick, but out of those two alternatives, only one is the simplest hypothesis—which, following Occam’s razor, it would have to be the God hypothesis.

    I fail to see where God, as an hypothesis, offers testable conclusions.

    Thanks for admitting your failure to see it, I rest my case. (Just kidding.) I think the above already answered that.

    Of course if we define God as the creator of the universe, then the universe itself is all the evidence we need. Its all very neat but it is not science, at least for us unsophisticated rubes who like our science predicated on hard data and experimental evidence.

    Why ‘not science’ when there is the evidence of the universe which is a kind of test? The amazingly intricate order of the universe, after one has seen one mind boggling example after another, are all tests pointing to an intelligence behind them—not some random mindless motion. In the order of ‘tests’ that can be carried out to test a hypothesis, from a weak test to a strong test, that sounds to me to be a fairly decent test, at least in the middle of that range. And when compared with the blind ‘self-contained’ universe operating by Chance it becomes an even more plausible hypothesis.

    You seem very close to agreeing in places, especially when you speak of the limits of scientific process for assessing truth. It is precisely because of those limits (it best represents what we know or think) that I reject the scientific testability of God.

    The limits in the testability show the plausibility of the God hypothesis, since we’re saying that, yes, we can test, to a point, without claiming full proof, so such observation-tests of intelligence in nature do strongly point to an intelligence behind them (just as Darwin saw)—even if we are tentative about it. So I do not see it as leading us to rejecting the testability of God—not if we include the universe’s imposing and awesome structure as being such a test. And for many, including great scientists, that observation-test has been so imposing and impressive, time and again. That pattern is what impresses me (as it did Darwin, Einstein, and others).

    It is precisely because of those limits (it best represents what we know or think) that I reject the scientific testability of God.

    That would also seem to equally apply to the rejection of the scientific testability of a blind ‘self-contained’ universe ruled by chance (which does not explain where the laws came from).

    I would say similar things of Gods non-existence. Our more ardently atheistic friends might demur, but I dont think that God is inherently more absurd, philosophically speaking, than a self-contained universe.

    Agreed, and I would perhaps go even further than you and say that a self-contained universe operating by ‘chance’ (the atheist’s golden cow) is inherently more absurd than belief in an intelligence underlying the universe and its laws. Why would the universe have laws at all? Why would it have these orderly laws that we discovered? Where did they come from? Why do things in physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy fits so incredibly well? The God hypothesis gives an intelligent answer to these questions (“there was a brain behind them, stupid”), while the atheist’s Chance would have to make many silly assumptions in order to make his ‘chance’ lead to the enormous complexities that we see (with no ‘brain’ to guide progress and development). (That was an American expression I used: I wasn’t calling you ‘stupid,’ of course.)

    Where I seem to lose you (and Im not entirely sure why) is in my assertion that science is better off heuristically sticking with a self-contained universe, leaving each of us to determine where this becomes unsatisfying and we must wax philosophical or turn our thoughts to religion.

    Why? If we assume that God is scientifically untestable then the ‘self-contained universe’ hypothesis, under wise leadership of Chance, is also scientifically untestable. What one denies the former follows for the latter as well. Why should this one untestable Chance philosophy be the sole claimant over science? That’s my bone of contention.

    The God hypothesis has been an inspiration and a guide in the work of many great scientists, like Newton and Einstein. And for your info, high energy physicists today, in string theory, are moving into domains that re-define the universe (so what’s ‘self-contained’?) in terms of 10 or 11 dimensions, 4 spacetime and 6 curled up dimensions outside our 3 space dimensions. And you have the Multi-verse theory that speaks of other universes beside this one (advocated by Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg who is himself an atheist). So it isn’t clear what ‘self-contained’ even means.

    As a mathematician, I think it is quite plausible that spatial and physical reality could be much more than what our eyes have been evolved to see so far.

  17. […] by samuelprime on January 10, 2009 This is a follow-up on a discussion on this topic from another blog but which I think could be moved […]

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