A concise, irrefutable refutation of the claim that science disproves the existence of God

J. Istre writes:

Your blog and the writings of Edward Feser criticizing atheism (and Darwinism) have been very helpful. I have not been as convinced by anything I’ve read as much as by you and Feser.

For what it is worth, I have, in my own circles, attacked the common pop atheist approach that says there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God. I have not yet seen an effective response to my approach. I am not as philosophically astute as you guys, but I have attempted to work out a form of attack that appears to be effective (again, thanks to you two writers). Below is a distillation of my approach:

Scientific evidence-based arguments for the non-existence (or the existence) of God are essentially incoherent. To explore this, one must ask, “What is science?” What does science really do? Science is, briefly put, correlation of data to a model. It asks: how well does this particular model follow the data and the evidence collected?

What is the assumption here? One clearly must have data. What does the collection of data assume? It assumes a material existent. Science cannot work with anything that is not a material existent. Thus, the pop atheist books now in circulation that use the argument, “There is no scientific evidence for the existence of God” are clearly offering an irrational argument. Science assumes material data. To apply its methods and argumentation to a deity question is to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is.

Also, the problem of universals shows that there are indeed non-material existents. Most or all of math is a non-material existent. One cannot find math anywhere as a physical object. Thus, one must accept the existence of non-material existents, unless one wishes to claim that mathematics does not exist. One knows that the number two really exists, but where is it? Two tables before me and two chairs behind me both use the exact same existent “two.” However, can we point physically to this number two? No, it is a non-material existent, as are most or all universals. Thus, one cannot reasonably claim that there is no such thing as a non-material existent. This opens us up to another realm where there are things that are real, and exist, apart from physical phenomena, such as mathematics and consciousness.

Thus, the evidence based-atheist who says that there is no evidence for God, and therefore God does not exist, is using an invalid method for the debate. One cannot use any purely material based approach to the question of a non-material existent, such as God.

Therefore, any scientifically based argument in a discussion for the existence of God is clearly irrational and invalid. Science assumes material phenomena for applications of any of its methods.

Thanks again for your public service.

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

This is an excellent contribution to the discussion.

I am not versed on the mathematical side of these issues, as you (and Alan Roebuck) are. But it seems to me that materialist scientists do admit the reality of things shown by mathematical reasoning, as well as of things shown by material evidence.

The problem seems to be in the fact that the scientists don’t admit that mathematical realities, such as the number two, are non-material.

J. Istre replies:

I will attempt to explain what I see here.

A lot of confusion among materialist scientists comes perhaps from a misunderstanding of the philosophical basis of the methods they practice. The correlating of evidence to a model often involves the application of data to a mathematical model. And, as you imply, one does not perform science without mathematics, or some abstract model expressed in mathematical terms. So it seems that a materialist scientist should accept the reality of mathematics, since they necessarily use it. Thus they accept material evidence (data) and determine how close this data correlates to the non-material models, usually mathematical.

Perhaps they do admit mathematical realities, or, perhaps they do not think about the issue at all, simply performing their work habitually without understanding philosophically what is going on. So, when the arguments for the existence of God are examined, the materialists, I suspect in some ignorance, asks the wrong questions, out of habit, not making the effort of examining, and thereby understanding, the valid applications of their habitual method. Since the methods they use give them consistent results and a high confidence in its validity for what they do every day, they make an incorrect assumption that it applies to some philosophical questions. In many cases, this confidence turns into arrogance, which in turn explains some of the recklessness when a materialist glibly applies the method to non-material questions.

I also suspect that when a philosophically astute challenger, such as yourself and others, point out these obvious errors of materialism, the materialist suddenly feels exposed and naked, since his previously unassailable method has been shown useless (for some questions) by arguments he has never thought about before. A scientist usually does not take very well to exposure that his previously reliable intellectual approach (as well as his reputation of being “smart”) is shattered so easily. I think a lot of the materialist evasion you and others are seeing when you challenge them effectively is a turning away on their part from the truth that you have shown from a fear of looking directly at the issue, because an entire world-view will be shattered for them, in many cases.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 21, 2009 01:22 PM | Send

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