Either the question, “Does god exist?”, can be answered by the scientific method or the scientific method cannot be used. Regardless of whether the question is “metaphysical”, the above statement is tautologically true.
So far I’ve just stated the obvious, but these two cases have different implications.
First let’s just define 'scientific method’. Scientific method is described by wikipedia as consisting of the following steps:
- Define the question
- Gather information and resources
- Form hypothesis
- Perform experiment and collect data
- Analyze data
- Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypotheses
- Publish results
Now I’ll examine the case that the question cannot be examined by the scientific method. Let me propose that if god’s interactions with the world were at all predictable, then those interactions could be studied using scientific method.
If this proposition is sound (which I will show), then the contrapositive must also be sound: if god’s interactions with the world cannot be studied with scientific method, then god’s interactions with the world are not predictable. If god’s interaction with the world are unpredictable, then even if any particular religious text describes god’s past actions accurately, no one can know anything about what god will do in the future.
To show that a predictable god could be examined by science isn’t hard. Basically, you form a hypothesis as to what are some predictable characteristics of god’s actions, then you set out to test your hypothesis: are your predictions about god’s actions accurate? If yes then the debate is over and this site can close down. If the predictions are not accurate, then this in and of itself proves only that the hypothesis probably wasn’t accurate (or that the method of inquiry was flawed). All that is required to make predictions about what god may do, and then look to see if god does that.
So I will consider it established that if god’s actions are predictable, then those actions are penetrable by scientific method. Hence, if the questioner proposes that the question of god’s existence can’t be answered by science then he’s left with a very funny kind of god. Every question about god’s future actions or current condition is unanswerable. Any written account of god’s past behavior may or not be accurate, but at best it can only tell you what god thought, not what s/he thinks.
I haven’t shown that a god impenetrable by science can’t exist, just that most theists shouldn’t like the consequences were that to be the case.
On the other hand, if the question can be answered by science, then we can actually draw some conclusions. Namely, there is no evidence that god exists.
(PS: The question could be said to fall under the philosophical discipline of metaphysics. 'Natural philosophy’, which is basically science, is also grouped under metaphysics. Whether the question is metaphysical or not, the above argument applies regardless.)
Posted: August 6th 2007
See all questions answered by George Locke