Is Faith in God Illogical? Has Science Disproven God?

Claim: “God is not empirically observable and therefore does not exist”

Response: This claim assumes the truth of the principle of empirical verification: “A fact is only true if verified by empirical observation.” The new atheists make this the sole criterion for assessing all knowledge and all truth claims. However, there are four major problems with this line of thinking:

  1. The principle of verification itself cannot be verified empirically. That is to say, the statement that “A fact is only true if verified by empirical observation” cannot be verified by empirical observation. There is no empirical observation that tells us that something is only true if verified empirically. So the entire principle of empiricism is based on faulty circular logic and must be dismissed. 
  2. Empirical observation – even with the most sophisticated instrumentation – can only observe material things that undergo change. The only reason that physicists can observe anything at all is because change is taking place at all levels of the material world. For this reason, the scope of empirical observation is limited and will eventually reach a boundary. God is changeless and immutable. Therefore, He cannot be empirically observed by definition. This does not entail the non-existence of God, it entails the limited scope of empiricism as a method of knowing. 
  3. The actual practice of science is not strictly empirical. Science includes an interplay of theory, mathematical modeling, empirical observation and trust. Certain branches of physics such as cosmology, quantum physics, astronomy rely heavily on mathematical modelling in order to produce theorems. Many scientific theories such as relativity, the Big Bang theory, etc., are the result of mathematical modelling and not pure empirical observation. Einstein himself never needed to set foot in a laboratory. 
  4. Many truths are deducted using axiomatic logic and not empirical testing. The Pythagorean theorem can only be proven mathematically and not empirically. No amount of empirical observations of triangles would ever constitute a proof of the theorem. Compared to logical and deductive proofs, empirically based proofs are at best probabilistic since the sample size can never include the entire set of testable samples.

There are deductive arguments that prove God exists (A Strong Logical Argument for the Existence of God). There are no deductive arguments for atheism. Atheism or naturalism is wholy unprovable even in principle because it is impossible to verify from within the natural world that ONLY the natural world exists.

 “Think of it this way: you can’t find out why checkers boards exist by looking at the rules of checkers themselves, which concern only what goes on within the game. The rules tell you how each piece moves, how the game is won, and so forth. But why are the pieces governed by these rules, specifically, rather than others? Why do any checkers boards exist at all in the first place? No scrutiny of the rules can answer those questions. It is impossible to answer them, or indeed even to understand the questions, unless you take a vantage point from outside the game and its rules. Similarly, what science uncovers are, in effect, the “rules” that govern the “game” that is the natural world. Its domain of study is what is internal to the natural order of things. It presupposes that there is such an order just as the rules of checkers presuppose that there are such things as checkers boards and game piece…Thus, science cannot answer the question why there is any world at all, or any laws at all. To answer those questions, or even to understand them properly, you must take an intellectual vantage point from outside the world and its laws, and thus outside of science. You need to look to philosophical argument, which goes deeper than anything mere physics can uncover.” 

- Edward Feser,  Scientists Should Tell Lawrence Krauss to Shut Up Already

Claim: “Atheism is for more rational persons while theism is blind faith”

Response: The only logical alternative to theism is naturalism or physicalism – the belief that physical reality is all there is. However, there is much stronger support for theism than naturalism – for three reasons. Firstly, there are no deductive or empirical arguments for naturalism. Naturalism, as already mentioned, relies on empiricism which is unprovable and circular in its own logic. Furthermore, there is no way to actually prove or argue, from observations within the natural world, that the natural world is all that exists. Indeed, it is the atheist – not the theist – who holds his naturalist position out of ‘blind faith’ in the absence of good reasons or evidence. Naturalism, far from being a reasoned position, is merely a prejudice or assumption that one arbitrarily adopts. Secondly, naturalism is self-refuting because under the assumption of naturalism, the human mind is reducible to the brain which has evolved through natural selection for the sole purpose of survival and not to discover objective truth. This means that all thoughts, ideas, and intellectual worldviews are the result of brain neurobiological events that occur as the brain’s responses to stimuli and genes. As such, all ideas held by a person – under naturalism – are not held because of their truth or rationality but simply because of brain chemistry. This casts great doubt as to the accuracy of human scientific conclusions and knowledge in general – since it could only correspond to objective reality by some improbable miraculous coincidence. Under naturalism, it is the atheist who has “blind faith” that his own mental and intellectual convictions should be trusted in the first place.

Finally, naturalism ultimately amounts to saying that ‘things are just there’ as a brute fact without any final explanation because of its refusal to admit of anything beyond the natural world. Atheism at the end of the day is simply not provable and this should cast doubt on the very rationality of atheist belief which truly amounts to blind faith. Dr. James Cutsinger summarizes this point when he says:

“On the contrary, atheism is self-contradictory. Think about it. The atheist says, “There is no God.” Now anyone who says, “There is no _____,” is giving voice to what a logician would call a universal negative proposition, whatever might be placed in that blank. It’s negative because it says “no” and denies something, and it’s universal because the field it encompasses is unlimited. If I said, “There is no platypus in this chapel,” I would also be uttering a negative statement, but it wouldn’t be universal because the context would be restricted to this building, and we could verify, or just confirm, the truth of my statement by arming everyone in the room with a flashlight, fanning out throughout the building, and engaging in a systematic platypus-hunting exercise. Notice, however, that when atheists say, “There is no God,” they’re not saying, “There’s no God in this chapel,” or “There’s no God in Greenville,” or “There’s no God in our galaxy.” They’re saying, “There is no God anywhere in the entire universe, no God at all wherever one might look throughout the full extent of reality.” But in doing so they’re implying that they’ve done the looking. They’ve carefully inspected all the nooks and crannies of existence, even as we’d need to inspect all the nooks and crannies of this building to know there’s no platypus in it. If, however, they’ve truly looked everywhere there is to look—if they can honestly say they’re personally acquainted with the full extent of reality—it follows that they must be omniscient. But omniscience is an attribute of God. Therefore, in saying “There is no God,” atheists are implicitly claiming to be God, and thus inevitably contradicting themselves.”

– James Cutsinger, ( The Sound of a Lecture Undelivered, Furman University, April 30, 2007)

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