Jun 12, 2010

Verification, Falsification and a direct challenge to my nontheistic readers

It strikes me as strange: that the same people who insist that science is great because it is falsifiable then go on to request (often vehemently) that religion be the same, but more importantly be verifiable, with catch-cries along the lines of “show me the evidence” or “where’s the proof?” These (verification and falsification) are quite different approaches to gaining knowledge and it is not at all obvious that they fit nicely together. Scientific theories can only be deductively ‘proven’, verified, or even shown to be likely from the evidence if we import in various other quite ‘content-heavy’ premises, which are, interestingly enough, controversial in the philosophy of science. Why are claims about religion held to such a different standard?

As an example of this: we are informed by various scienceocrats/scientismists that there are many different incompatible supernatural claims, we have no empirical way of deciding between them and they must all logically cancel each other out (in some rather obscure way) and therefore, we should all be atheists and Christians are stupid; QED. My response? Well firstly, as is common amongst the neo-godless, this apparently completely ignores the historical dimensions and the actual claims of religions like Christianity. Unfortunately, small matters of essential doctrine like the incarnation and Trinity are just more pseudobabble to those brought up in the absence or wilful rejection of intelligent theistic belief. But more controversially, I have a “tu quoque”; listen up, as it’s quite good imho; here we go: the same, my unsophisticated science-worshipping friends, is true of ANY SCIENTIFIC THEORY. I’ve implied this before, but I’ll make sure you get it: it is not empirical fact that will (can) decide between the many logically possible theories/laws etc that could account for the finite collection of observations made thus far (in many scientific fields if not all) but assumption about the nature of the universe. I have no intention to deny Science; as I've said before, I look forward to earning money from this awesome enterprise -I just hope to point out how ridiculous a common view on Christian faith is.

The assumptions are rational, you may cry. Well, so is Christian theology – and it’s probably better developed than the philosophy of science. When you add in little things like revelation and the aforementioned incarnation, we have a pretty good case. You, on the other hand, are blind guides making it up as you go and irrationally certain of beliefs which are quite simply foundation-less.

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