Friday, January 17, 2014

Jerry Coyne Says the Best Arguments for God's Existence Are Flimsy

Here. And I agree with him.

But I think he misses two of the best (but also flawed) arguments for the existence of some god(s):

(1) many people are comforted by a belief that some god (or other) exists, which obviously has no bearing on whether or not some god(s) exist(s) but is a valid normative (that is, non-empirical, non-positive) argument that some god(s) should exist;

(2) the absence of data does not warrant a conclusion that no god(s) exist(s), anymore that the failure to observe black swans warrants the conclusion that black swans do not exist. Thus, atheism, like any form of theism, is a matter not just of science but belief.* However, as Bertrand Russell argued about the celestial teapot, the burden of proof should rest on those who would posit the ontological existence of beings (natural or supernatural) about which we have no data. This goes for the mind (as opposed to the brain) and the soul, as well as the god(s).*

*The only scientifically pure position would be a feeble agnosticism. Atheism, including my own, requires an affirmative (scientifically unprovable) claim that no god(s) exist(s).

*By the way, the oft-made argument that it is impossible to prove a negative is inaccurate. In fact, it would not require a trained scientist to prove quite easily that I have not buttered my toast this morning simply by examining the toast just before its consumption.

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