A common claim in the discussion surrounding, made by both the religious and atheists or agnostics, is that God cannot be disproved. I think that many or most atheists allow this misconception based on the true premise that science cannot disprove a phenomenon without evidence for or against it. And, I think some of the more enlightened and less fundamentalist of the religious out there claim the same thing. They understand enough of the scientific method to understand that their claim of God cannot be disproved. Some of the religious use this as a petty form of argument: “You can’t disprove my God exists, therefore there is a good chance He exists.” But in this post I blame atheists and agnostics for their stance on this issue. I am disappointed to say that I have yet to meet an atheist who doesn’t concede this point, that God cannot technically be disproved, even if there is no evidence in support of His existence and even if it is overwhelmingly unlikely that He exists.
The reason I have a problem with this point of view is as follows. It is true that the notion of a non-specific deity cannot technically be disproved, but in reality we rarely talk about the potential existence of a non-specific, non-meddling, impersonal deity who shows no evidence for his or her existence. And, in practical terms it is the very specific gods of human history (Yahweh, Allah, or plain old “God”) who cause most of the debates about religion. “God exists, I have a personal relationship with Him, and you can’t disprove that.” Well, I beg to differ. Once you make your deity specific, as all who follow organized monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Islam, or Christianity necessarily do, then you put all the evidence for that specific deity out there for judgment. You can’t make very specific claims about the nature and the actions of your deity and then claim that since science cannot examine the evidence for that deity it cannot disprove it’s existence.
Let’s take a look at some of the very specific attributes attributed to the Christian God as an example.
- It was claimed of the Christian God that He created the world in six days. We know scientifically that the world was not created in six days.
- He is the same God that people claim answers their personal prayers. We know scientifically that prayers are not systematically answered. (Some scientific blinded studies have even been done showing no effect of prayer on health outcomes).
- He is the same God that people claim sent himself to earth in human form through a virgin in the Middle East two millennia ago. We know scientifically that this is not possible, and we have pretty good reason to believe that it did not happen when you examine the verified records of the time.
- He is the same God that people claim died and the came to life again a couple of days later. Again, we have very good reason to believe scientifically that this never happened. For such an unheard of event there should have been many, many written records of the event. Indeed, everyone who could write at the time would surely have written something about the event, especially considering it was apparently accompanied by a massive earthquake and a number of zombies walking around in plain sight in Jerusalem, none of which is recorded.
- He is the same God that people claimed would come back to the Middle East in person within the lifetimes of the people there at the time. We know that did not happen.
These are a few examples of specific claims about a particular God which have been convincingly shown not to be true. So, it is no longer reasonable to simply say that science cannot disprove the existence of God, when you make such a claim about a very specific God whom you have defined carefully beforehand.
Some of these claims will be dismissed by more liberal-minded Christians by claiming that they were not intended to be taken literally. But this attitude is simply one of trying to move the target as needed. No one ever claimed that the Genesis account of creation was not to be taken literally until science showed that it couldn’t be true. Only after that did the religious alter their claims out of necessity and start to claim that it’s just a story that describes something more profound. A classic case of making your beliefs fit the irrefutable evidence as needed.
If, when you refer to “God”, you are referring to the God in the Bible, the God that most Christians would consider their deity, then it is entirely reasonable to state that God does not exist. It is also entirely reasonable to state that science has proven He does not exist. The religious would be flawed to then claim that science can’t technically disprove the existence of their God, because most of the qualities and history of that God have been disproved. To alter the qualities and history of God to fit the new evidence that arises from science (such as the fact that the world was not created in six days), is to simply ignore the facts and to adjust your target in order to cling to your belief.
If you really want to be convincing in your argument that science cannot disprove your God, then you need to define your God, explain what he/she is like, what he/she does, what he/she has done in the past, and then let science take it’s best crack at disproving it. The only deities so far that science is unable to disprove are the ones that are specifically poorly described such as the Invisible Pink Unicorn or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, gods such as Allah, Yahweh, or other monotheistic deities have long since been disproved as convincingly as has the notion that the sun revolves around the earth.