Field of Science

New developments in the case for evidence for god

If you're following the debate about the possible existence of adequate evidence for a god, you should read Jerry Coyne's newest post on the topic. I am, as noted earlier, on Coyne's side in this debate, while most others think that no kind of evidence in principle would be enough to tentatively establish that any god(s) exists.

The problem has a lot to do with definitions, and Myers, Pigliucci, and Sweet set the bar pretty high (intolerably high, in fact, imo).

Jerry's post links to a paper by Boudry et al. that seems a must to read if you're interested in this topic. Apparently Rob Pennock is another proponent of the view that “science is simply not equipped to deal with the supernatural and therefore has no authority on the issue.” Pennock is here at MSU downstairs from me, so I will try to catch him and ask about it. Stay tuned...


  1. FWIW, I think there's two different "bars", both of which are defensible. I'm not committing to either one.

    The "Creator of all that exists" bar is the one you say is intolerably high. But I would argue that many people -- including theists -- would not accept any other god.

    The "omnipotent enough and omniscient enough and bossy enough to resemble Yahweh or his ilk" bar is the one I think you are measuring against. This one, I can imagine that types of evidence that would convince me. But again, insanity and technological advanced tricksters would be two hypotheses that would be tough to beat -- not impossible, but difficult.

    (I recognize that by strict definitions, the terms "omniscient enough" and "omnipotent enough" are oxymorons -- you either are omniscient or you aren't, right? However, I think the terms as typically defined are not coherent concepts (e.g. the old Paradox of the Stone, or the more modern Paradox of the Burrito) so I use them in a looser sense.)

  2. I think "omni-" can have shadings, are "enough" doesn't make it an oxymoron. There is even discussion among theologians, I've heard, about whether omnipotent includes all things illogical or not. So, does it?

    "I am the lizard king, and I can do anything" need not include resolving paradoxes, for example. The hunter-getherers, farmers, and goat-herders that first talked about a god that can do everything didn't likely even know that there were such things as logical impossibilities, and probably just meant "everything" as in "the things that I would like to be able to do, such as making the rain come, the harvest bountiful, the sea full of fish, my wife a nicer person, and thwart my enemies."


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