I know the word ‘atheist’ presumes a lot, but it’s just an easier way of describing someone with a rational mind.
Joe Konrath, a self-avowed atheist, awesome fighter for authors, and leader in the indie author movement, said that almost a year ago in his Konrants post.
My response then was the same as it is now—right, the rest of us run around eating socks and wondering if there really are gerbils under the hoods of our cars.
Shoot, wouldn’t it be great if we could get us one of them rational minds?
In the comments of that post, I had a very interesting conversation with Joe about God, belief, and evidence. Joe brought up a number of valid points about the errors we can make when we formulate beliefs using something other than science.
However, he didn’t point out the errors we can make when we formulate beliefs based on science. He didn’t want to talk about the limits of science. What he wanted to focus on was the claim that if God existed, we should not only be able to observe things about him, her, or it, but we should also be able to subject those observations to the scientific method.
If we couldn’t do that, Joe claimed, then there was no rational basis for believing in God. God did not exist until he was proven to exist. And the only way to do that was by using science.
So here’s the question: is Joe right?
To answer that, we first have to understand what science is. And what it is not.
And I’m happy to report that earlier this year I read probably the best article explaining what science is that I’ve ever read. It’s called “Science as Storytelling” and was written by Barry R. Bickmore, a professor of Geological Sciences at BYU, and David A. Grandy, a professor of Philosophy at BYU with a strong interest in the philosophy of science.
Hold on, John. Is this some anti-science thing?
Not at all.
In fact, it’s just the opposite.
They wrote the first version of this article help students with simplistic views of science and who tended to “dismiss scientific conclusions that challenge their preconceived notions—especially those connected with religious or political views.” They also wrote it to help scientists who are not religious, downplay the supernatural, or “share in certain inaccurate views of the nature of science.”
What they have fashioned is a way to “help science students (and professors) gain a more productive view of both the nature of science and the science-religion interface.” And, as good scientists, they put their theory to the test and found that their approach was indeed effective at both secular and religious colleges.
So, is Joe right? Is science the only way to prove or disprove God?
Let me suggest you read the article. Let me suggest that this is the most productive way of talking about the issue that I’ve found. As you read, you might want to look for the answers to the following questions:
- What makes science different from things like astrology?
- Does science have any blind spots?
- Is science fiction because its stories change?
- Is it possible for natural phenomena to exist upon which you can do no science?
- Under what circumstances could science prove the existence of a God?
If you’re interested in science or religion, I think you will love this article. Not only because it clarifies and reaffirms science, but it also because it helps us understand its limits.
I would, of course, be interested in your responses to it. And in another post perhaps we can talk about how we’re supposed to proceed about a subject when we can’t do science.