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What's wrong with an unfalsifiable theory?

Atheists sometimes claim that theism is unfalsifiable. Why would theists regard this as a problem with their position?

Posted: April 16th 2010

Eric_PK

Simple. You can’t tell that you are wrong.

On the theist/atheist side, I can (and have) come up with a list of things that would compel me to believe (though I do think you quickly get into a definition issue around when the label “god” rightly applies. As an atheist, I can find out I am wrong.

For the vast majority of theists, there is no evidence that can show them that they are wrong, and in fact they believ that it’s a virtue to believe even against any evidence.

That, my friends, is hubris.

Posted: April 22nd 2010

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George Locke

An unfalsifiable theory makes no predictions. There’s nothing you could ever observe that would be inconsistent with it. In other words, the world where the theory is true appears exactly identical to the world where the theory is false.

The theory tells you nothing about the world, and nothing in the world tells you about the theory. So, there is no reason to believe.

Posted: April 17th 2010

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Stefan www

Science is a process by which we determine which ideas are true and which one’s are false. If a hypothesis is unfalsifiable that means it cannot be disproved. Usually that means it cannot be tested at all. Because if there was a sure way to prove it and you tried it and it didn’t work, then that would be a falsification as well.

Theism is provable in theory. For instance, Zeus could reveal himself to us. The reason I don’t believe in any unfalsifiable theories is because if I believed in Zeus why wouldn’t I also believe in Vishnu and Thetans and UFOs and all kinds of other things that people claim with heartfelt sincerity?

Remember: We have more reasonable explanations for why people choose to believe in these things, such as fear of death, ego, loneliness, need for meaning, need for leadership. And why other people would make up such things: power, mental illness, desire to be special, money, maybe even an honest desire to better the world, etc.

The problem with believing in an unfalsifiable hypothesis is that you have intellectually “no way out.” Theists have convictions, but they can’t show their gods if somebody wants to see them, they can’t conjure them if they go to battle, they can’t even rely on their help when a family member is ill. In short, they have to have blind faith. And if there is no god, they would never find out. Rather, they would just keep on believing anyway. They will even kill people thinking they’re right. Religious people have gone so far as to skin, quarter, burn, squash, slice open, drown, impale, crush with Boeing jets and torture with methods unsurpassed in their cruelty for no reason other than that they believed some other hypothesis.

That’s the problem with believing in the unfalsifiable: You could be wrong and you’d never find out.

Posted: April 17th 2010

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