Thursday, February 22, 2007

God: The Failed Hypothesis

A new book by Victor J. Stenger makes an argument that science can prove that god does not exist. God: The Failed Hypothesis, How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, is bound to stir up controversy among theist and atheist alike.  

Many authors claim that modern science supports the proposition that God exists, but very few authors have directly challenged this assertion. Physicist Victor J. Stenger points out that if scientific arguments for the existence of God are included in intellectual, not to mention political discourse, then arguments against his existence should also be considered. In God: The Failed Hypothesis, Stenger argues that science has advanced sufficiently to make a definitive statement on the existence — or nonexistence — of the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. He invites readers to put their minds and the scientific method to work to test this claim.

My initial reaction to this book is negative. I'm a big fan of Kant's two spheres philosophy, science describes the physical, religion the metaphysical, the two do not explain each other. Of course, I'll read the book before I pass final judgement.

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4 comments:

Pedro Timóteo said...

I'm a big fan of Kant's two spheres philosophy, science describes the physical, religion the metaphysical, the two do not explain each other.

But isn't that like what the theists say, that there's something "above science" (or "above reason", or "above reality"), which science can't, by definition, ever explain?

My own opinion is that "a god created the universe" is a scientific hypothesis like any other, and should be investigated scientifically.

And, while I don't believe science is capable of saying "there is no god whatsoever", it can probably say that there is no Christian / creationist god. That one was obviously invented by some primitive Bronze Age desert nomads...

Anonymous said...

Aw c'mon. Can we not agree that "metaphysics" is a purely human construct. We have developed sciences of physics, chemistry and biology for explanations of the reality of the universe and this understanding is revealing the absurdity of susperstition and supernatural dogma.

There is no empirical evidence of gods, faeries, ghosts, banshees, boogeymen or a single omniscient monotheistic deity - beyond cultural folklore. The vestigial belief in "metaphysics" by those apologists who seek to defend religion as a viable and plausible explanation of reality is deeply flawed. It's like teaching modern High School chemistry and believing alchemy is just as legitimate.

Religious beliefs do offer benefits for those who who are so inclined to believe, although it still is negotiating existance through fantasy, a fantasy societally ordained and wedded to cultural identity. Absense of belief is seen as detrimental especially when it comes to rationalism and materialism versus metaphysical theism. As Space Ghost said, "Some people want to believe you can pull quarters from behind their ears." Some people NEED to believe it.

And yet a beautiful by-product of the human mind's higher need to form cognitive understanding through inferring meaning by imposing patterns on everything we experience is also the seat of our exquisite imagination. It's these abstractions that keep us from going insane when we cannot determine the actual causal factors when we are trying to discern reality. Folklore, art, literature, architecture, etc. are the fruits of our need to cope without knowing the real how's, why's and wherefores.

We suspend our disbelief when we discern something to be mythical yet we are incited to violence when our ideologies (mythos) are questioned. We are capable of producing exquisite art and horrible inhumane acts through the same mechanism.

Our world is a world of Doublespeak, trying to reconcile the paradox of our irrational superstitious tradition laden past, and the dawning understanding of scientific systematic discovery. The dissonance this creates makes many people somewhat schizoid because they try to claim that science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Ultimately they are; but most of us are like Candide, hoping to retain the best of all possible worlds.

In the 21st century, we as educated people find it absurd that animism is still widely believed. (check out articles on Nigeria or any third world country), but we still toy with the idea that magick and metaphysics are part of the natural world and not an added imaginary construct unique to the human mind. Kant be damned. -J

Lexcen said...

Thanks for the reference to this book, it looks very interesting.
BTW, whatever happened to 'blind faith'? Since when has religion required proof of God's existence? It's so scientific to require proof isn't it?

Phil said...

Stenger argues that science has advanced sufficiently to make a definitive statement on...

Sounds like book-jacket marketing copy to me.

What else is science prepared to make a definitive statement on?

...the nature of human consciousness?

...the cause of global warming?

...the cause of obesity?

...the nature of dark matter in the universe?

Engineering might be a scientific discipline where you can make definitive statements. And mathematics. All else, I think, simply warrants more research.