Agnostics: Why the chance of Gods existence cannot be 50/50

I recently commented on an article entitled ‘Why I’m not an atheist…yet’, the response by the author was put into another blog post. I appreciate the time and effort put into this and to the author I’m sorry I haven’t responded earlier.

What I judged to be the biggest factor in the authors decision was the following line:

‘In short, I think I am not an atheist as I do not want to be.’

I did claim this was a choice inspired by faith and not logic, to an extent the author agreed.

“Atheism is about what seems logical”. I agree. God, in many senses, seems irrational. Although I would contend that an event as cosmically powerful as the Big Bang having no outside cause also seems illogical to me. The presence of natural laws, also seem to speak to a universal establisher of such laws. I’m sure you have answers for these thing apart from God. Most proselytizing atheists do. For me, believing in an initial cause and an establisher of the laws that govern our world is not outside of what is logical.

An initial cause and/ or universal establisher of laws is not farfetched. What is a leap of faith is to believe it is one of the few belief systems we use today, considering the vague description of creation in the texts and the need for science to teach us further and truly progress.

No scientist would conclude the Big Bang had no initial cause. Of course there was one, the problem lies with understanding what that was. When a God enters the mix, there are no initial cause or establisher of laws prior to said Gods existence. This is where we are told we can stop thinking and to accept this as the ultimate answer. The end of the search.

If the option is between God and natural process it cannot possibly be 50/50. The odds should be one hundred percent in Gods favour, right? How is there any doubt? God has the ability to perform miracles. All powerful, loving and knowledgeable. Ever present, listening to our prayers.

‘The fool hath said in his heart there is not God’.

Nature cannot speak for itself. So for God to fail in providing any clarification on his involvement, to the extent that the odds of either creating the universe are considered 50/50, although paradoxical Gods chances are further reduced. The case for a natural cause should not be so convincing.

Divorcing with what isn’t true

I like the idea of creationists separating from disproved theories. I struggle to understand where this puts the religion in terms of reputation.

If I was a Christian making my way up to the pearly gates, how would I approach God to ask him why certain passages of Bible scripture were incorrect? Would I be accusing him of lying? Deceit? Would I be punished for observing facts? Thinking logically is a good thing, but I fear for the combination of logic and religion, it is bound to cause a conflict on judgement day.

I incorrectly stated in the comment that atheists would not discriminate against certain sectors of society, which was rightly picked up on. I for one condemn the immoral actions of governments, groups and individuals regardless how big or small. What I intended to say was I would not discriminate against ethnicity, gender or religion as atheism is not a catalyst for such bigotry. Atheists have and will cause harm, but not for atheist beliefs.

I understand neither do all religious people and I am extremely grateful for this. But if a kind, moral Christian accompanied a fundamentalist, homophobic, slave keeping one, which would be ridiculed more at heavens door? I guess it depends on the verses God had fresh in his mind that day.

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53 thoughts on “Agnostics: Why the chance of Gods existence cannot be 50/50

  • Atheists have and will cause harm, but not for atheist beliefs.

    What are these “atheist beliefs” of which you speak?

    • Hey TFBW, from an atheist perspective I believe that there is no higher authority governing our universe and no God to judge us when we die. I see little reason with this in mind to cause harm.
      I should have changed the wording in that sentence so atheism didn’t seem so faith based, by ‘atheist beliefs’ I mean what we understand through science.
      Thank you for the comment and highlighting this for me 🙂

  • … I believe that there is no higher authority governing our universe and no God to judge us when we die. I see little reason with this in mind to cause harm.

    Isn’t there equally little reason not to cause harm?

  • Sorry, I’m having difficulty following your reasoning. You suggested that the non-existence of God gives us little reason to cause harm. As far as I can see, however, the non-existence of God gives us little reason one way or the other. That being so, it’s not really a rational basis for either course of action. I was hoping you could clarify.

    • There is no scripture within atheism to cause harm. Religious has plenty of scripture to cause harm to non believers and infidels. So when I say there is little reason to cause harm, I’m saying there is no instruction to do so, unlike religion. So why cause harm? Hopefully that does not require clarification.

      • No, that’s clear. There is no scripture within atheism to cause harm or not to cause harm. There is no instruction to do so or not to do so. So why cause harm? And why not cause harm?

        It’s clear that atheism offers no actual guidance as such, but you choose to embrace the lack of guidance to cause harm, and disregard the lack of guidance not to. It’s your personal decision based on personal inclination.

      • It’s not all personal, I know how it would affect others. I personally know I do not want to cause harm, I also know the community benefits from me deciding against causing harm. It’s a lovely cycle!
        If you were atheist, would you cause harm?

      • [Ugh — can’t reply to your actual comment. I hope this lands somewhere reasonable.]

        Where’s the “not personal” part? It looks to me like the credit for deciding to be nice to people is entirely yours. Nobody told you to do it.

        As for me, I can only speculate what I would be like if I had decided to be an atheist. All I know for sure is that I had a very nasty temper as a child and early teenager, and when I was in a fit of rage, yes, I did want to harm people. A lot. People often hurt me, and I really wanted to hurt them back when they did.

        I suspect it would have ended badly.

      • The not personal part is the outcome. Policing keeps me from harming people, laws also. But I know that people suffer, I can’t stress this enough. Regardless of my actions I know the effect it has on people. You do too. We both know when people suffer and tell us we are harming them. We don’t need a God to tell us this simple fact. It’s obvious even if you pretend you don’t know this for yourself.
        And who wasn’t angry as a child/early teenager?! We all were! Heck, I have outbursts still and in in my mid twenties. It’s something that comes natural to teenagers during puberty, I’m pretty sure you would have got through it fine.

      • Let me put it this way: which part of deciding to be nice is informed by atheism? I would say none of it. Imagine that you are a super-scientist who understands the exact consequences of your actions in terms of the suffering (or not) that results from them. This puts you in the perfect position to be either an evil genius, or a good genius. Nothing in all of that science tells you that you ought to be good or evil, it merely informs you on how to be good or evil. The decision to be good or evil is entirely yours.

        My point with regards to my dark past is that I know that I am capable of wishing harm on other people. Apparently you have felt the same way. So in answer to your repeated question of, “why cause harm?” the answer is, “because sometimes we strongly desire it.” Mostly we don’t: we aren’t sadists who hurt people for the fun of it. It’s just that sometimes we figure that people legitimately have it coming to them.

      • Atheism itself does not state we should be good or to the contrary, I agree. But this gives us the chance to create morality within our society and all agree together. That’s the benefit it has over religion.
        With no instruction in atheist scripture (as there isn’t any) to tell us how to live, we can try our best to create our own morality. I don’t think religion has helped very much at all in stopping people from carrying out their darkest desires, if anything it has given humanity some of it’s darkest days. Do you think religion has stopped you doing so?

      • Trying to create morality on which everyone agrees? That’s not an attempt to erase religion, it’s an attempt to establish a new atheistic religion. If you’re so critical of the failings of other religions, what makes you think you can do any better?

  • There is no ‘religion’ in attempting to inspire a more atheist society. I am not saying I can do better, my blog is aiming to bring to light the flaws in a religious society. I am tired of hearing of the horrors religion brings on a daily basis, I also want to bring believers to the realisation that they feel the need to create blogs on Gods behalf because he isn’t really there.

  • Atheist or not, your desire “to create morality within our society and all agree together” sounds like the charter for a religion.

    In any case, I think you’ve answered my original questions.

  • Using probability alone there is a very small chance the Christian God exists. Yahweh is just one out of the countless millions of other Gods, all of which have an equal chance of existing.

    “If countless thousands of religions have to be wrong for yours to be right, doesn’t that mean that people are good at making up stories? And if so, that your religion is probably just another one of those countless thousands?”

    • Yahweh is just one out of the countless millions of other Gods, all of which have an equal chance of existing.

      By that logic, there almost certainly is a God, right?

      • Although they have an equal chance of existing, this doesn’t mean there is high chance of any of them existing. The tooth fairy, Santa and the monster under the bed all have an equal chance of existing, but I highly doubt any of them do.

  • So the “millions of other Gods” aspect is really a red herring, then. It wouldn’t matter if there were only one possible God, you’d still ascribe the same near-zero probability to his existence — right?

    I don’t suppose you can show how you computed these odds, can you? Odds without mathematics to back them up are really just personal hunches. Are we talking personal hunches here, or actual probability?

    • I would, the reason being I’m only ever told about God from people like yourself. The God I hear of never does anything himself, people imagine they talk to him, or see him in their dreams, or misinterpret the wind blowing against their window as some kind if sign. But every religion has such experiences, people feel what they want to feel and view things in a way that fits the criteria.
      I have no idea of the maths or specific odds, but this shouldn’t be needed to disprove a God, only to prove one. Because if so, how long would it take to look at the mathematical improbability of every single one? Or should we just use mathematics to prove your specific God doesn’t exist?

    • I think you’re right in pointing out this discussion is taking an odd theological bent. I am an atheist, and I do not see the existence of any kind of god as the creator of the universe likely in the least. But I would not try to assign a precise probability to the non-existence of god, or anything else for that matter. I am not a mathematician (English major, actually), but that just doesn’t sound possible to me unless you are talking about a closed system with all the necessary variables already known.

      The unlikelihood of a god as the creator of the universe is not a probability statement to me, but rather an expression of the inability of the god hypothesis to actually explain anything. It is very rare that I see a theist actually define god in an argument about creation, and a scientific hypothesis requires specificity to the point of being able to be repeatedly observed, tested, and to be able to make predictions. And I don’t even mean direct observation and testing of a god; I simply mean observation and testing of evidence that supports the conclusion that there is a god.\

      But let’s say we gave some attributes to a god. We could say this god is at least powerful enough to erupt an infinitely dense particle from nothing and then cause it to violently expand into the universe as we see it today. We could hypothesize that this god created and or maintains natural laws that order this universe. If we wanted to be anthropocentric, we could also hypothesize that this god did all of this in order to facilitate our existence because he has some sort of design for (or on) us.

      Now we have run into the age-old question; what created this god? The typical answer is that this god is everlasting, the uncaused mover, etcetera, etcetera. So what have we explained? That things (for lack of a better word) of seemingly infinite complexity and power can just “be”? Well then why did we resort to the god hypothesis in the first place? If this god, who seems to be more complex than the universe itself (an assumption that has been argued, of course—”no way, God is actually the most simple thing imaginable!”), can just “be”, then why can’t the universe itself just “be”? At least the latter hypothesis (or hypotheses, really, such as: an eternal universe, or a cyclical universe, or multitude of dying and birthing universes, or a universe beyond the classical model of physics but perhaps understandable through the theory of quantum gravity, etcetera) has support in cosmology. Cosmologists do not find the god hypothesis sufficiently or even partially of explanatory value, and so neither do I.

      Of course, this is just one element of the god question. Perhaps you believe in a god that didn’t create the universe, or it is not important to you whether or not god created the universe. I like to keep my comments focused on one topic though, and I find cosmology very interesting and surprisingly important to many theists. Many theological beliefs rest on the foundation of a god-created universe.

      • I suppose I didn’t really wrap up my argument. The whole point of my few paragraphs about the lack of explanatory power in the god hypothesis is that a god cannot seem likely from a scientific perspective (I do not believe probability from a mathematical perspective is even applicable in this case) because it is essentially a useless hypothesis. A useless hypothesis is inherently less plausible than a useful one, of which cosmologists have many. So, I agree with religionerased that the probability of a god’s existence is not likely—not at all likely in any scientific sense—but I would not feign to assign a probability to a god’s existence, or even presume that such an assignation is possible.

      • Extra explanation: a god that created the universe is not at all likely from a scientific perspective. I am sure there are all different sorts of gods whose existence would require different arguments. I’m at the point where I think, why bother? Believing in gods seems to be a very odd and unfruitful exercise to me, though I admit that the people who do truly believe have no real choice in the matter.

      • I have some questions regarding this. I’ll post them at the end of the comment thread, because this forum stops offering a “reply” option once you go about three levels deep.

      • ‘The unlikelihood of a god as the creator of the universe is not a probability statement to me, but rather an expression of the inability of the god hypothesis to actually explain anything.’

        Very true, and thanks for taking the time to give your opinion on the post. I agree it isn’t the wisest move to add a probability to this, it came about as a response to a blogger that did indeed assume the existence of God is 50/50. It is more of a argument against this claim than a conclusion I conjured up myself.

        Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you!

  • All I’m asking is that if you have the mathematics to back up your probability claim, then please show your working. If you’re just expressing a hunch, on the other hand, then there’s no need. You’re entitled to your hunches, and don’t have to defend them.

    • I have no mathematics, I don’t think there is an accurate way to prove such a deity doesn’t exist. I want to spread the idea that if a God existed, all powerful and loving, he wouldn’t do such a terrible job at proving it, and you wouldn’t have to argue on behalf of him on WordPress.

  • Do I what? Have any mathematics to back up my claims? What have I claimed? I’m not the one making/agreeing with statements like, “using probability alone there is a very small chance the Christian God exists.” I just wanted to clarify that you aren’t really using probability, because that’s a branch of mathematics, and you have no mathematics. So, in reality, you’re using intuition alone, not probability.

    Of course, if you want me to back up one of my claims with mathematics, then quote that part of what I said, and ask a clarifying question. It’s fair game.

    • Well what do you claim? What is your belief? I am not going back through the comments as I am currently on my phone. I was refuting a post stating Gods existence was 50/50, which is absurd. I haven’t claimed I have maths, what I have claimed is that if an all knowing and powerful God existed we would or should know 100%. Don’t you agree?

  • Well, when you get to a more convenient device, perhaps you can find a claim of mine that needs some clarifying. Meanwhile …

    … what I have claimed is that if an all knowing and powerful God existed we would or should know 100%. Don’t you agree?

    No, I don’t see why we would all know that fact with certainty if it were true. If you think that such knowledge follows necessarily from God’s existence, then you’ll have to spell out the intermediate part of the argument, because I honestly don’t know where you get that idea from. I suspect that you’ve got some sort of “a perfect God would necessarily behave in such-and-such a manner” reasoning behind it, but I’d rather let you spell it out than guess at it myself.

    • Would you be happy to summarise in a quick reply what your beliefs are, in a nutshell? And if it includes belief in a deity, what the repercussions are for not believing in that God?

  • I subscribe to the beliefs affirmed in the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds. There are no specific repercussions for not sharing my beliefs. Beliefs lead to actions, and actions have consequences and repercussions, but there are far too many alternatives left open by “not believing” for me to identify a single concrete consequence. Indeed, sharing my beliefs doesn’t guarantee a whole lot.

  • It’s both, of course. My initial exposure to those creeds was a result of upbringing. Subsequent decisions to keep or reject various aspects of that upbringing were a matter of thoughtful consideration.

    How is any of this relevant to your argument?

    • Nothing to do with the post, I just feel that an upbringing plays a huge part in belief, being exposed to a belief and spending the rest of your life justifying it. In my opinion, of course. That’s not how I want to live my life.
      I doubt that you would hold your beliefs if it wasn’t for people telling you the stories. It’s always people, never a God. That is why religion will never be good enough for me. Until I do not have to rely on people that haven’t even died yet to tell me what happens after death, I may be a little more convinced.

  • I doubt that you would hold your beliefs if it wasn’t for people telling you the stories.

    Possibly, but given that it has no bearing on whether my beliefs are true or not, I consider it unimportant.

    So, do you have a reasoned argument as to why, if a perfect God exists, we should all know this with 100% certainty? Or are you, as your last comment suggests, simply adopting that as your criteria for belief in God: i.e. you won’t believe in God unless he convinces you in person of his existence?

    • Well I imagine a perfect God would not struggle to get his message across as much as he does. This leads to confusion, and has led to much violence over time. So if a God is all loving he would not allow such confusion. Are you satisfied with a God that isn’t capable of communicating down to us? Or doesn’t want to provide such clarity?

  • I see: it’s not so much that there’s no evidence for God, but rather that you’re dissatisfied with him if he exists — holding out for a better offer, as it were.

    I’m satisfied that God has communicated with us sufficiently for us to know what we need to know if we want to know it. The fact that we don’t know everything and that we are still capable of denying that which can be known is not an indictment on God’s competence.

    For example, you mention that the lack of knowledge “has led to much violence over time.” Do you imagine, if people knew with 100% certainty that God exists, that there would be no violence? The vast majority of violence in this world is not a result over disagreements about God. If God were to clear up the uncertainty, resulting in very little change to violence, would you complain about the remaining violence in the world, or is that not God’s fault?

    Even if we did all know for sure that God existed, that’s no guarantee that everyone will want to be his friend rather than his enemy. Dawkins and other New Atheists are always quick to accuse the Biblical God of being a fictitious, bloodthirsty monster. If they knew with certainty that God existed, then presumably they’d drop the “fictitious” part. It seems like a recipe for a holy war rather than a solution to them.

    Exactly how many beliefs would God need to forcibly seal into our heads before the results looked satisfactory to you — and would you then have cause to complain over our lack of intellectual autonomy?

    • ‘Im satisfied God has communicated with us sufficiently for us to know what we need to know if we want to know it.’
      I’m almost certain you would have no idea of ‘God’ if you were born isolated from others with the same belief. Let’s say up were born on a desert island, you grow up alone. Would you grow up with the same beliefs you do today? Of course not. God doesn’t ‘communicate’ anything. You believe what you are told from others.
      If God existed, I would be more anti-theist. I don’t like the idea of praising someone who asks for it. I wouldn’t do it for another human, so why for a God?
      ‘If we knew 100% that God exists, there would be no violence?’ There wouldn’t be if God took our violent nature from us, I do not see why this would be a problem.

  • You believe what you are told from others.

    It keeps coming back to this issue, doesn’t it? I find that to be a show-stopping line of argument. For one, it’s a blatant genetic fallacy: you are addressing the provenance of the belief rather than its truth. For another, if we were to apply it fairly and universally, then your anti-theistic beliefs would also have the same problem, making your refutation no better than my assertion. To save your argument, we need to assume it applies only to my theistic beliefs, but you present no evidence to support that requirement. You say, “I’m almost certain you would have no idea of ‘God’ if you were born isolated from others with the same belief,” but it’s a preconceived idea with no support in evidence — at least, none that you’ve presented. And even if I were to cite psychological research which shows that the concept of “God” is somewhat universal in humans, I suspect that you’d fall back to more specific pleading as to how that’s no good, because people still have different ideas about God, and you want everyone to be 100% certain and 100% in agreement over all the details. That leads me to my next point.

    There wouldn’t be if God took our violent nature from us, I do not see why this would be a problem.

    It confirms my suspicions that “giving us all certainty that God exists” was not actually sufficient to satisfy you. Necessary, perhaps, but not sufficient. It’s rather tedious having a discussion like this when the other party is hiding most of his argument behind a curtain.

    To summarise, since I’m losing my enthusiasm for the conversation, your style of argument may serve to confirm to yourself and to like-minded individuals that your beliefs are rational and coherent, but it’s not the sort of argument which stands on its own merits. I’m sure it seems perfectly correct when supported by a framework of anti-theistic background beliefs, but it’s woefully inadequate in the absence of such support. It’s a fairly basic requirement that an argument like this rely only on background beliefs which are not controversial, relative to the subject under debate, or else the argument becomes an exercise in begging the question. So, not only do I disagree with you, but I claim that it would be highly irresponsible of me, intellectually speaking, to accept your argument.

    Now, I don’t know whether you care about the quality of your argument or not, but if you do, then I hope you accept the above as constructive criticism, and wish you all the best in refining your skills. If you don’t care, then I really have nothing further to discuss in any case.

    • Apologies, I have been on holiday the past week.
      ‘You say, “I’m almost certain you would have no idea of ‘God’ if you were born isolated from others with the same belief,” but it’s a preconceived idea with no support in evidence’. I think the evidence is just looking around, being born in a different nation is all it takes to hold a completely different belief. It is only a four hour flight for me to arrive in a nation with majority Islamic beliefs, I do not see how, even with psychological research or evidence, why it should hold any weight. There aren’t enough universal pointers to a specific religion. I was born with religion present in my society, my parents weren’t atheist so I can’t say this influenced by lack of belief.
      I never hide behind a curtain, however I admit I am rather disappointed by my arguments as the have been quite inconsistent, regarding the exact topic we are arguing for. I feel I have jumped about a lot. Not dodging a bullet, it’s just difficult when not face to face and spread over a week. I love constructive criticism! It means I’m learning and not under the illusion I am constantly right.
      I would be confident to say you have put your point across with more clarity, but I know many Muslims, Hindus, probably Ancient Greeks that would destroy me in an argument with refined arguments and valuable experience. I still disagree, I do not see how centuries of supernatural absence and a lack of godly interaction can still convince believers to read scripture that looks coincidentally man made.
      That is why I lost my enthusiasm for religion years ago. Thank you for the feedback.

  • I think the evidence is just looking around, being born in a different nation is all it takes to hold a completely different belief.

    Bad form: you moved the goalposts. You weren’t arguing for “hold a completely different belief”: you were arguing for “have no idea of ‘God’”. The idea that there are humans (of normal intelligence, and old enough to hold a conversation) who have no idea of ‘God’ (detached from specific names and proclivities) lacks even passing support in evidence. Find me a culture that has no idea of ‘God’. The lowest common denominator in human religion is not atheism, but something like animism. Human beings do not need to be indoctrinated into the idea of spiritual beings, or, by simple extension, the idea of a supreme spiritual being. On the contrary, they need to be indoctrinated into atheism. Some embrace atheism willingly, of course, but those who do so reject the idea of God and/or spiritual beings generally, rather than lacking such an idea in the first place.

    There aren’t enough universal pointers to a specific religion.

    There aren’t enough for what? For certainty? For your tastes? And even if there aren’t, what’s that supposed to prove, exactly? That there is no truth? That we can’t know the truth? If I were to say there’s not enough universal pointers on Evolution or Global Warming or (insert any hot-button ideological topic here), citing lack of universal agreement as supporting evidence, and therefore siding with whichever position I feel most comfortable, would you call that fair dues?

    • By saying that a nation has a completely different belief in God, I am saying that that nation has no belief in the God that you do. So I am not moving the goalposts. Or are we now arguing for the concept of a ‘God’ in general and no particular one?
      I’m not proud that almost every culture has an idea or belief in some way in a God, because it shows we need that easy answer to make sense of the world. Saying that, it doesn’t surprise me at all as the human race is still in it’s infancy.
      The various religions of the world show to me that we need a God to make sense of the universe, the difference in opinion shows that there isn’t a competent God to provide us with a valid answer.
      And I don’t mind as much if we do not agree on scientific theories, as I know the universe cannot speak for itself. God surely can.

  • Or are we now arguing for the concept of a ‘God’ in general and no particular one?

    Well, if that wasn’t moving the goalposts, then it’s clear that we don’t share a common idea about where they are. Perhaps you’d like to nail that down. When you say, “the chance of God’s existence cannot be 50/50” (per the title of this post), what do you mean by “God” in that sentence? This whole argument is over an undefined term if we don’t have clarity on that point. Just FYI, however, if it turns out that the Muslims are right — that there is one God and Mohammed is his prophet — then I would still consider it true that “God exists”, but my theology would be well off-base in many other details.

    … it shows we need that easy answer to make sense of the world.

    The idea that it all happened by itself is just as “easy” an answer. It’s just not the way our intuitions are inclined, by and large. You are a victim of your own propaganda if you think that theism is the easy alternative.

    … the difference in opinion shows that there isn’t a competent God to provide us with a valid answer.

    I’m going to try to interpret that as an answer to the question I asked, which was, “there aren’t enough [universal pointers to a specific religion] for what?” It seems that the answer is, “for you to consider God to be a competent deity, if he exists at all,” so it’s a matter of subjective satisfaction, and is conclusive only with regards to God’s competence, not his existence. So really, the title of this post should have been, “if God exists, I think he’s doing a lousy job.” That wouldn’t have been over-reaching at all.

    I don’t mind as much if we do not agree on scientific theories, as I know the universe cannot speak for itself.

    I’ll bear that in mind. For one, it affirms what I already believe: that you are presenting a theological argument, not a scientific one.

  • arollinson said:

    The whole point of my few paragraphs about the lack of explanatory power in the god hypothesis is that a god cannot seem likely from a scientific perspective … because it is essentially a useless hypothesis.

    I have to admit to some confusion as to how the usefulness of a hypothesis relates to the possible truth of that hypothesis. In fact, I’m not sure what you mean by “useful”. Useful in what way? A materialist may find no need to resort to supernatural elements in his cosmology, and thus may not find God to be a “useful” concept, but this has no bearing on whether God actually exists or not. It could be that the materialist model is simply wrong, in which case its judgments regarding what is “useful” are basically irrelevant.

  • Of course a god hypothesis could be true in principle, even if it is not useful. It has not been disproved by its lack of definiteness, lack of explanatory value, and even its lack of potential future explanatory value (a god is incomprehensible to human minds, say many theists). However, there is currently no reason to think the hypothesis is at all helpful or probable (or even meaningful, in fact) and there is definitely no scientific basis for accepting it currently.

    Even if we had no other possible explanations or possible avenues to explore (that actually contain probable future explanatory value), it would still be very audacious to claim that the god hypothesis is likely or correct. Of course, in our current situation, we have avenues to explore that may very well lead to solutions with explanatory value, quantum physics being one. Given this fact, we should do one of two things: delay judgement of the god hypothesis until these other avenues are more thoroughly explored, or reject the god hypothesis and move forward along these other cosmological avenues without looking back. I think either is perfectly acceptable at this point, as an avenue with likely or possible explanatory value is infinitely more informative than an avenue with none. A third option, sticking with the god hypothesis despite the fact that it is the least well-grounded of our three possible choices (saying “we don’t know anywhere near enough to say anything even tentatively”, and “let’s ditch this essentially useless hypothesis and explore ones that, given the history of science, are likely to succeed” being the other two), is certainly a possibility, but it does not make the most of current evidence.

    Of course, all this talk about usefulness and evidence is based on materialist assumptions, of which I am ready to admit there are many. One of these is essentially Occam’s Razor, which is why an unuseful (unproductive might be an even better word, actually) hypothesis will be left on science’s cutting room floor even though it could technically still be true. We like to assume that things have as few explanations, properties, etcetera as possible (while still allowing them to exist) because that is useful for a host of reasons. If we were to explain the entire universe through a material lens, most everyone would be satisfied, but a theist might say: “Well, there might still be a god”. This god would certainly be an “unnecessary” addition according to materialist assumptions, but that does not mean it does not exist. But then again, why would it exist? Or how would we know? How do we know that an infinite number of things beyond our imagination don’t exist? At that point, we wouldn’t need a god to explain the universe anymore than we would need Russell’s teapot or an ethereal, universe-hopping bear. Should we think it likely that any of these three things exist just because we possibly are in error by assuming they don’t exist? I still think that the fact that we have explained the universe is all we can really hope to accomplish, and any guessing at vestigual hypotheses would be busywork.

    But you say the materialist model may simply be wrong. I see a lot of resistance to materialist assumptions on blogs on theology (I readily admit this is probably not a good sample space to observe), and I’m not sure why. Materialist assumptions have led to a lot of work getting done. If they’re wrong than we have been getting extraordinarily lucky for centuries now. It sometimes seems as though people are afraid of these assumptions. Atheists often don’t admit they exist and theists often act (again, from my small experience of the theology blogosphere) as though the existence of any assumptions in the atheist position (not that all atheists are materialists) blows the whole philosophy apart. Well, I don’t like raining on parades with obvious raindrops, but all philosophies have assumptions and it seems to me that only materialism has gotten things done in the world. Furthermore, if the most tested and the most productive assumptions ever devised by humanity are wrong (which could be the case, I admit), what does that say for the assumptions of any theology? You know, the systems of thought that often have assumptions based on divine revelation/inspiration, meditation, thinking really hard, unfiltered subjective experience, and that feel good feeling you get singing in church.

  • … there is currently no reason to think the hypothesis is at all helpful or probable (or even meaningful, in fact) and there is definitely no scientific basis for accepting it currently.

    I’m still not clear what your context is when you say that the hypothesis is not “helpful”. Helpfulness is a terribly context-sensitive property, and it seems that belief in God is very helpful to a great many people in a great many ways a great deal of the time. I’m not sure how you can possibly justify the claim that it is not helpful, unless you are simply referring to your own disposition (i.e. you, personally, don’t find it helpful).

    I must disagree if you think that the idea of God has been unhelpful to science. On the contrary, the Christian view of God, specifically, has been vital to science. There is a prevailing view among historians of science (other than the ones that have an anti-theistic axe to grind) that Christian theology was the key catalyst for modern science and technology. The founders of modern science were overwhelmingly Christian, and their science was shaped by their image of God: lawful and constant, rather than fickle and capricious.

    If you want to claim that the idea of God is of no help in formulating specific scientific theories, such as models of physics, then I agree in a limited sense, but can’t help but think, “so what?” Why should that be the ultimate measure of an idea’s value? Issues such as purpose, meaning, and value can not be found in physics.

    As to the claim that talk of God’s existence is not even meaningful — what is your basis for that claim? I see meaning in the concept, and a great deal of humanity’s thought has been poured into the question over thousands of years. Even Sir Isaac Newton wrote more on theology than on physics. Am I to take your word for it that the whole thing is a meaningless waste of time, and those great thinkers who have written volumes on the subject were actually spouting meaningless gibberish? I’m afraid you’ll have to mount a more substantial defence of your position than that: the fact that you don’t see any meaning in it tells me more about you than the subject itself, quite frankly.

    I haven’t addressed all your points, sorry, but I think I’ve disagreed deeply enough with the fundamentals of what you said to have substantially engaged your position. There’s only so much focus I can maintain. Please let me know if you think I’ve neglected anything important.

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