Why judge the existence of God with science?

The claim that God exists is not a scientific one. Most theists believe that God is sanctified from the attributes of the natural world. Science can only be used to study the natural world and its phenomena. Therefore, why should science be used to judge a claim that does not directly concern the natural world ?

Posted: September 12th 2011

Reed Braden www

Simply, if any agent can have any affect on anything in the natural universe, that agent can in principle be detected and studied by science, and it must fall under the rule of natural law.

Posted: September 22nd 2011

See all questions answered by Reed Braden

flagellant www

You say most theists believe that God is not susceptible to scientific investigation, having been ‘sanctified from the attributes of the natural world.’ The other respondents have already given you a host of reasons why we should be using both the scientific method and a large dollop of scepticism. I have several points to add.

You mean that we can’t examine any religious claim about God using science in the same way that the Pope says “You mustn’t judge paedophile priests using civil and criminal law”?

…the Pope as head of the Vatican is responsible for a secret system that has protected paedophile priests from proper criminal investigation and prosecution; [and] its archaic process of Canon Law fails to deal with them adequately…*
All so very convenient for the religiosi, don’t you think? So I can get out of jail free by being a catholic priest, can I?

Churches say that God is incomprehensible and one can only find her/him/it through faith. So why is it necessary to believe in something beyond belief to get closer to an understanding? Sounds like snake oil to me. And why do you have clergymen to intercede between this unknowable god and people when, virtually by definition, no-one can know any more about God than the average person in the street does? (And do you know that a number of clergymen, having seriously looked at the evidence, have become closet atheists themselves but dare not admit it to their congregations?)

If you read modern, science-aware religious writers such as John Shelby Spong, (try Jesus for the non-religious), you will find frank admissions that much of scripture has been made up, over the years, just to make the gospel more appealing. And you have the audacity to suggest that God is beyond scientific study. So where do you get your concept of the Divinity from? Is it from the cobbled together, error-strewn statements in the bible, or is it, as I suspect, as a result of wishful thinking: that you would like God to exist, and it makes you feel ‘comfortable’ to delude yourself?

[The excerpt quoted above comes from a review of Geoffrey Robertson’s recent book *The Case of the Pope]

Posted: September 16th 2011

See all questions answered by flagellant

George Locke

Either God has predictable interactions with the world, or it doesn’t.

  1. If it does, science can test the predicted interactions.
  2. If not, there can be no claim to knowledge of God.

The first of these claims should be obvious. If your religion said that true believers will feel the “guiding hand of God”, that would lead to the prediction that if your faith is both sincere and correct, then you should be happier, more prosperous, more sexually potent… something. Science can test that kind of prediction. A believer might protest that God doesn’t submit to crude tests, or what have you, but the point is that if true believers are indistinguishable from infidels, then the prediction of a guiding hand appears meaningless. If they are distinguishable, then there will be some test that shows a distinction. (Those who claim that their God would choose not to participate in such a test should hear about the dragon in my garage)

Many religions say that the faithful will have their prayers answered, and this claim has been famously refuted, at least in medical contexts.

How about a God whose interactions with us are unpredictable? If there were a supernatural being that interacts with us in an utterly random way, there would be no way to identify its various interactions as deriving from a common source. There would be no way of knowing about it at all.

Step back and ask, just what does unpredictable mean here? First of all, we’re talking about something we don’t ever see. Quantum mechanics has uncertainties in it, but, if you learn a bit of the science, you’ll find that those uncertainties are tightly constrained. So while you can’t say whether Schroedinger’s cat is alive or dead, you can predict the likelihood of each. That prediction is testable. An unpredictable God is a truly strange idea.

If such a deity had any dealings with us, no two interactions would have any underlying connection. If there were some common trait, some thread linking one miracle to the next, that thread forms the basis of a prediction. If God had anything like will or intentions, then its actions would have certain tendencies that could form the basis for predictions.

Finally, it should be clear that if there is a God out there that never interacts with us in any way, no one could ever know about it. What’s more, no interactions means no divine inspiration, no holy ghost, no healing power of Jesus, no divinely inspired holy books.

If there is anything like the God described by most religions, that God would have behavior that science could study. But if science can’t study God, it’s a very strange and unsettling sort of being that no one would want and that no one could ever know about.

Posted: September 14th 2011

See all questions answered by George Locke

brian thomson www

I don’t know how many more times this question can be asked in different ways. If a god is “outside nature”, then it has no connection with, or impact on, the human race. There is no point in speculating about the existence of such a god, since it can’t possibly affect us in any way i.e. if it does exist, it might as well not exist, for all its relevance to us.

If – as all but deists and atheists believe – there is any kind of interaction with us and the natural world, then your god becomes a subject for scientific study. If you want to claim that it does anything, we’re going to insist on examining what it actually does (if anything), and how it might do it. It’s as simple as that. Anything that has an impact on us is going to be studied.

Posted: September 13th 2011

See all questions answered by brian thomson

Dave Hitt www

We judge the existence of everything else with science. Why should a god get a pass?

Posted: September 13th 2011

See all questions answered by Dave Hitt

Galen Rose www

The scientific method is the only approach to understanding how the world works that has been absolutely proven to work. The other approaches, such as revelation and wishful thinking have a lousy track record. Revelation is claimed as the basis of thousands of religious “facts,” by thousands of different religions, which contradict each other. Clearly the vast bulk of this “knowledge” simply has to be false. Wishful thinking is involved when people decide on such things as whether their pets will be in heaven, or whether people who never heard of Jesus can avoid hell. They decide on the way they think things ought to be and then claim that’s the way they are. The prosperity gospel would fall under this heading as well. Wouldn’t it be nice to be rich? Well then god must want us to be rich.

Science does not accept authority, which of course would include those who claim to know through revelation, which includes all of the authors of the bible. Science demands evidence that can be tested. I am right now surrounded with the fruits of science such as my computer, electric lights, central heating, my medicines, my car in the driveway, hot and cold running water, and that crowning achievement, the flush toilet. Science works.

Ancient men thought that nearly everything involved the intentions of the gods, from thunder and lightning to snow and rain, birth and disease, and the bounty or scarcity of the crops and fish. Thanks to science, we can now explain in perfectly natural terms all of these phenomena and many, many more. Throughout history, more and more things once thought to be the agency of gods have been explained by science with natural law, and fewer and fewer things were left to gods and other supernatural explanations. You see, all the activity is away from supernaturalism and toward naturalism, thanks to science. Now, can you name a single thing that used to be explained in natural terms that now requires a supernatural explanation? Just one single thing? Do you see a trend here? (Thanks to Greta Christina for this argument.)

If there is a god which doesn’t interact with the natural world, then it isn’t the god of the bible, and for all practical purposes is irrelevant to human existence; it doesn’t answer prayers or protect the faithful, etc. If there is a god which does involve itself with our natural world, then it MUST leave traces of its actions in the natural world which would be detectable through science. When careful double-blind studies of prayer have been done, prayer has failed to show any positive results. In fact, science has never found a single trace of a god or a supernatural realm.

The facts are that the scientific method gives us results which can be tested and often even predicted. It is the only known method which provides dependable knowledge of how the world really works. Revelation and wishful thinking give results which are notoriously undependable. Remember, revelation was responsible for Thor, Zeus, and Gilgamesh, and thousands of other gods, too, so we can prove that it fails over and over and over. In fact, all the available, testable evidence suggests that it ALWAYS fails. I don’t understand why anyone would put even one egg in that basket.

Posted: September 13th 2011

See all questions answered by Galen Rose


Well, first off, I don’t know what the word “exist” means unless it is in reference to an existenct thing or a mental construct, so I don’t see how the word can apply to something outside the natural world.

Second, the vast majority of gods that I’ve heard of are said to have influence on the human world. To take Christianity as an example, christ is said to have performed many miracles (raise the dead, cure the lame, turn water into into wine, multiply the loaves and fishes) that would have had a huge effect on the natural world and could have been investigated using science.

But it seems that those sorts of miracles don’t show up these days. We’re left with things like curing with prayer, which seems not to work when we study it scientifically.

You can have a god outside of natural world who doesn’t interfere with the world – the deist god – though I’m not sure what the point would be since that god by definition has no impact here.

Or you can have a god that does interract with the natural world, but those interactions are then subject to scientific investigation.

There is no third option.

Posted: September 12th 2011

See all questions answered by Eric_PK


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum