Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wishing Doesn't Make It So...

Your God does not exist.

It's a bit of a bold and sweeping statement, to say the least.

People will say, "Wait! You have to know everything to know that!"

No, I don't.

I can know absolutely nothing and still be right. See, the way skepticism works is this: I don't need proof to make a claim like that. It's called taking the position of negative evidence. Negative evidence means I don't have evidence.

Epistemology means that I'm in the err to believe unless I have sufficient evidence to support my belief based on previous experiences. I have no evidence, I have no previous experiences, I have nothing to base a sound belief on.

Which is why I can say your God doesn't exist.

And no, I can't somehow not believe something. You don't "not believe." that's epistemologically impossible. See, I have no evidence for your God. This is what I mean when I say I have no evidence. I can't somehow believe I have no evidence. I either have it or not. And I don't. So I don't somehow believe God doesn't exist - given the current dearth of evidence, I know they don't exist. By not having evidence for your God, I can calmly say, with certainty, that your God does not exist.

So how do you convince me that your God does exist?

You provide the proof. See, this is called the burden of proof. The burden of proof, then, is on the one making the positive claim. The positive claim is that X exists. To claim that anything exists requires proof: I could say air exist; how do I know? I have proof. It's what I feel when I step outside on a breezy day. I could say love exists; how do I know? I have proof. I can put you under an MRI and I can measure the release of neurotransmitters in your brain, or, I could judge by your actions. But I can prove that love exists.

"Aha!" You said. "God is all around us!"

Really? Where? That's not the God of the Koran, the Bible, or the Torah. That's not the Abrahamic God, nor is that any god of any theistic religion. Saying God exists all around us is suggestive of a pantheistic entity; which is stretching imagination in and of itself. No, the god of Abraham is a solid entity, who interacted with regularity in the world he created. Oh, and speaking of that: by interacting with the physical world, he leaves evidence. He would leave traces. We would, and we should, be able to test these things to understand them. All of the so-called evidence of a deity's miracles have had more rational explanations. Either confirmation bias, mass hysteria, fraudulent artifacts, big liars, little liars, or good ol' fashioned wishful thinking, there is not a single solid piece of evidence one that suggests the existence of any kind of Theistic god.

"That's because you're just closed minded and you're not looking. Do you see this piece of toast right here? See? That's the Virgin Mary/Jesus/God."

Isn't that blasphemy? Is your God so small that you could fit them on a piece of toast? Do you see that cloud up there - it's proof butterflies exist because it looks like one.

Aha - but butterflies really do exist. They do indeed, but not because a cloud looks like one. Does God exist? If they do, it won't be because their face is visible on a tree stump. You'll need more evidence than that. It's not being small minded - it's just not being so open-minded one good gust of wind blows away any grasp of reality you  had.

So does your God exist?


At least, not until you provide the world with evidence that can be tested.

What does a Miracle look like, anyway? I figure something that violates numerous laws of physics in one setting that has no mundane explanation - chance, coincidence, or synchronicity has no bearing here - is proof. Can a miracle be tested? Probably not. But I'll know one when I see one.

But absence of evidence does not mean evidence is absent.

Tautology is tautological. Yes it does; if I have no evidence I have no evidence. If you were to say something like just because we don't have evidence now doesn't mean we won't in the future, that's fine. Until then, that evidence is absent. Until then, God does not exist. And no, saying your Holy Book was written by him because it says so is not evidence. "Only a fool does not have God in his heart," says the Bible. You don't impress me; if there is a God, and God did have some hand in the creation of the world, then they are to blame for the cognitive facilities that lead me to the point I'm at right now.

There's a story that circulates in the Jewish community. I apologize for not remembering the names of the players in full; I only remember the roles. Perhaps, if I have a Jewish reader, they can inform me. Anyway, the story goes a bit like this: Two or more individuals were arguing. There was two Rabbis involved; and one Rabbi kept invoking God to make his point, when the other Rabbi told him that wasn't the point. Eventually, the Rabbi who was trying to tell the other that invoking God wasn't the point looks up and tells God to, in so many words, butt out, by using the laws in the Torah to tell God he was out of line. Up in heaven, God was laughing because his children got the better of him and he was happy for it.

I wonder if this is a similar case. All of the Godbotters out there throw Bible verses and quote their holy texts in vain attempts to justify their actions, while we agnostics, atheists, and skeptics continually get the better of them, and through them, God, with his own physical laws. Perhaps, if there is a theist God, this is what they intended. Just as the Rabbi got the better of God with the laws in the Midrash and Torah, so too atheists and skeptics get the better of God with the laws written in the fabric of reality. And in both cases, perhaps, God is up in heaven laughing with joy, "My children! They got the better of me again!"

Or not.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

God is an extraordinarily claim.

Now how about that extraordinary proof?

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