Science Gives God The Bump!

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Dave Matson's picture
Science Gives God The Bump!

[Sorry for the long post! At least it is sectioned, so you can skip stuff you don't like.]

Often we are told that science can't disprove God. It depends, of course, on what is meant by those terms. If "God" is taken as a being with magical superpowers that violate the laws of nature, and if "proof" means reaching a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt based on evidence, then it seems to me that science gives God the bump!


A careful search for truth begins with what we know best, working from the known (basic facts) to the unknown. We begin, as Sherlock Holmes does, by collecting the relevant facts. The better we know the subject, especially the research of others, the further we can cast our net. Sherlock Holmes then applies his brilliant insight, imagination, and good judgment to generate the most reasonable explanations. If those don't pan out, then he will look at the more exotic ones. Begin always with the party-pooping, everyday explanations that have the best track records! Your quarry is likely there.

Before us are several explanations for our crime scene, the most likely scenarios. What now? Using the time-tested principles of reasoning and pure logic, Sherlock Holmes identifies a number of predictions that each hypothesis makes, predictions that can be checked out. (An explanation must be potentially falsifiable. If it can't be checked it's worthless.) Part of his genius is in having a huge, mental database of explanations for numerous details, connections that would slip by a casual observer. Part of his genius, based on long experience, is his ability to weed out those initial explanations that have poor track records. Hence, Sherlock Holmes immediately zeroes in on the most promising explanations.

An explanation that contradicts an important fact must either be modified or, if already crumbling beyond repair, rejected. Since patches can always be found for an explanation in trouble, effectively dismissing the contradiction without benefit of reason, factual support for that patch is mandatory. Applying patches without that further verification is what is meant by an ad hoc argument. The question is whether the patch or the contradiction is the heavier weight on the scales of reason, and one cannot justly short-circuit that decision. That's why ad hoc arguments, even though logically possible, are worthless. That's also the main reason why those tomes defending biblical inerrancy are worthless. They are largely collections of ad hoc arguments. It's the any-loophole-will-do mentality where loopholes are patches.

After further sleuthing, Sherlock Holmes solves his case! One explanation stood heads and shoulders above all others in explaining the data, in making good predictions (which led to an arrest), and no other suspects are in sight. If we are confident that have exhausted all the reasonable explanations, and one explanation towers above all others, then we have found our conclusion. But, we don't write it in stone since we must always be open to new data. Neither do we reject that conclusion on the blind hope that future discovery will overturn it. (No better is accepting a rotten explanation on the blind hope that further discoveries will confirm it.)


It's logically possible that one might receive a revelation from God or an advanced alien, but that revelation can't be self-verifying. In the end, evidence and reason decide. Did that prophet receive a revelation? Maybe he is delusional (illness, doctrinal blindness, substance abuse, deprivation) or has a deep-seated need that generates or interprets those "voices" in his head. Catholic revelations happen in Catholic countries; Muslim revelations occur in Islamic countries; Hindu revelations are reported in India. Prophets consistently project the fantasies and beliefs of their respective cultures.

Psychologists tell incredible stories about doctrine influencing what people hear and see. If you expect to see the sun spin in a circle on a certain day, and you are a member of a cult that deeply believes as much, then you're gonna (with some exceptions) see that sun spin around! A newspaper reporter actually documented such a mass event in Texas. If you (as part of a large group) can see the sun spin around, hearing voices or seeing heavenly signs is no big deal, especially if you are ill or stressed out.

How does a prophet know where his revelation came from? Why not the devil, some other power, or even a technically advanced alien? Prophets also contradict one another. At best, only one prophet can be right, assuming conflicting messages. Therefore, virtually all prophets, despite holding the most sincere, deeply felt feelings, are WRONG. Feeling right is not being right. And, why should we believe that the last apple in a barrel of rotten apples is good? Most likely it's rotten as well. Prophets supposedly receive divine knowledge, but it never exceeds their gross ignorance of science, their fantasies, or their cultural expectations.

We cannot escape the need for evidence. A revelation that says nothing verifiable (and surprising) is a worthless revelation. Far worse is a revelation, lacking verification, that challenges what we know best about our world! We have no reason to believe that revelation and the best of reasons to reject it.


If you choose to investigate a doctrine, but are not mentally prepared to reject it, are you really seeking the truth? In your mind you already have it; your search is almost certainly a cherry-picking operation designed to prop up that doctrine. Admit it! And, plenty of cherries will always turn up! Just dig a little deeper and ignore those troubling facts, however probable, in favor of those cherries, however improbable. Soon, your basket will be full of cherries!

If you choose not to investigate a dearly held conclusion, because it provides emotional support, because you are not sufficiently knowledgeable, or because you put all your faith in a cherry-picked website, then don't assume you are sitting on the truth! Most likely you are not. Of course, some things don't cry out for more investigation. It is silly for a creationist to demand another investigation into the fact of evolution as though it were in doubt. At some point conclusions about the Earth's shape or the fact of evolution (as versus theoretical explanations) are accepted by reasonable people.


What do we know best, by actual test, about our world? Behold! The laws of nature, tested repeatedly by a small army of experts using incredibly accurate instruments, tested under extreme conditions at different times and places, and subject to a worldwide peer review. Nature's laws, especially those that forbid certain actions, stand with much greater certainty than many people imagine. For example, the law of conservation of energy holds (established to extreme accuracy and limited only by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle) for the 4 known, fundamental forces. Hence, every interaction governed by those forces--namely reality as we know it--must obey that law. Short of finding a 5th fundamental force yielding contrary results, a force that would have to be pretty weak or of very limited application to have escaped notice, the overthrow of nature's law of conservation of energy ain't gonna happen! Well, okay, let's put it this way. Particle physics has pushed certainty to a whole new level that makes "beyond a reasonable doubt" look iffy!

God's magical powers are, therefore, curtailed. Water cannot be turned into wine. God cannot create loaves of bread, animals and man, or planets from scratch. He cannot send forth a thought and create life in the sea. God cannot quickly visit the distant parts of his universe, project his power there, or even know what is going on there. (Neither God nor Information can go faster than light.) And, so on.

What do we know about God? (Consider Christianity's god though almost any god will do.) Look to various interpretations of the Bible, an ancient book (anthology actually) written almost entirely by unknown authors, a work filled with scientific, moral, historical, and prophetic error, a work floating in a sea of contradictions which sometimes reach the level of whole books. Apologists Gleason Archer and Norman Geisler notwithstanding, such error deprives the biblical God of any credibility. God got the rest of his magical powers by the stroke of a pen. Theologians, in a pre-scientific age, imagined the greatest being they could think up and accordingly penned in God's powers!

When rank speculation is weighed against the best-tested knowledge we have about this world, the heavier weight is obvious. Only a fool would throw away the things we know best for pure speculation. Science wins hands down!

But wait! God (fill in the reasons) is above the laws of nature. The laws of science don't apply, silly! But, aren't we using "God" before "God" is established? The question is: "Is the God hypothesis reasonable in light of the evidence?" The whole point of the evidence is to see if the conclusion is reasonable. We don't start with an unproven conclusion (the God hypothesis) and use it to dismiss the evidence. Evidence comes first!

Look at it this way. Suppose Mark claimed that a 50-foot, scaled up version of a 1 inch spider is hiding out in the Amazon jungle! "Scientific nonsense," you say, "The cross sectional area of its legs, which determines their strength, goes up by a factor of 360,000 whereas the weight of that spider goes up by a factor of 216 million, meaning that each leg would have to hold 600 times more weight than normal! That spider ain't going nowhere!" "Not true," says Mark, "Its legs are made of an unknown material that can handle that load." Of course, Mark can't use that "fact" since he has not yet established the credibility of his spider with the super legs. Furthermore, it's an ad hoc argument because it lacks factual support for those super legs. The best conclusion based on the evidence given is that, in fact, Mark's spider doesn't exist.

Doesn't this unfairly rule out God? As Carl Sagan put it, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Far from a mere platitude, it is a fundamental principle of good reasoning. Provide the evidence and then we can talk about God's magical powers overruling natural law. Until then, it's a case of rank speculation versus what we know best by test--the laws of nature.

A highly readable, most excellent book showing why science can't easily be dismissed, a book that may give your thinking a tune up, is still available on Amazon. "A Physicist's Guide To Skepticism" by Professor Milton Rothman.


So, what's a believer to do? 1) You can just ignore the evidence by putting your faith in silly websites, avoiding any form of objective study, and doing a lot of cherry-picking. Take your rightful place beside the flat-earther! 2) You can do as Luther did and abandon reason altogether. But reason took us to the moon! It has earned its stripes again and again. Abandon the only proven guide to truth about our world at your own peril! 3) You can declare that you have found the truth and that you are not in search mode. Good luck! Lots and lots of people have so declared--and only one group can be right. Are you feeling really lucky right now? 4) You can argue that scientific thinking doesn't exhaust the truth, that there's room for other truths. As Einstein said, describing violin music as a series of pressure waves may be scientifically correct, but it is not the whole story. The human interaction must be considered. Maybe some types of religious views can be justified, but they cannot violate the laws of nature. Welcome to reality.

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Deforres's picture
Good sir! I request

Good sir! I request permission to copy this absolutely wonderful piece of writing and distribute it amoung the masses! This is some of the best writing I've seen in years! Please, PM me so I may introduce myself properly.


Dave Matson's picture
Sir, permission granted!

Sir, permission granted!

Endri Guri's picture
This is a great writing!

This is a great writing!
*Claps like a retard*
The best Article for me if someone shows with up a better one.
Nice work, nicely done.

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