Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Can the existence or non-existence of God be proved by science?

This question has repeatedly come up in my thinking. If we can explain through science how the universe came into being then is there any further need for god? On the other hand, science hasn't proven there is a god so does this mean there is no god? Is it possible for science to prove the existence or non-existence of god?

I have difficulty with the idea that because we can create conditions that might be similar to the conditions when the solar system may have come into existence then we have shown that there is no requirement for god. All that we do is speculation about what might have been before the existence of what we know now exists. I keep thinking what was it like before time existed or matter existed but I also need to ask the question whether there was a point where nothing existed? Can we really talk about the beginning of time?

In my belief system, God exists outside of time and matter. Death also removes us from time and matter as we know it. If we are to contend that God is external or always existed then he cannot be constrained by dimension that came into existence at creation or the big bang. The realm or dimensions that we exist in limits our understanding and restricts our existence.

God is not restricted by our dimensions of existence. I would contend that the biblical contention of that he brought those dimensions into existence. Can the creator be constrained by that which he created? Does what the creator brought into existence constrain the creator?

We search for proof of god within the dimensions of our existence or understanding but if God exists outside those dimensions are we likely to find Him / Her within those dimensions? We may observe evidence of His / Her handiwork but not the creator him or her self. A person builds a piece of furniture but that person doesn't become part of that furniture. We may observe the handiwork and make judgements about the creator but the furniture will never show us or reveal to us its creator. The creator of the furniture exists apart from the furniture.

Science works within the dimensions of our existence. Our thought processes work within the dimensions of our existence. We exist within the dimensions in which we came into existence. If we are to search for God then we must do so in the dimensions of his / her existence and not within our own limitations. I met with God in what I call the spiritual realm. The biblical authors talk of this realm but our scientific method doesn't understand or apply to it. Science from my perspective can not prove or disprove the existence or non-existence of God.

Before I finish this dialogue, I would contend that our description of God is limited by our realm of existence. Why do we say God is he? In our existence, persons are either male or female. If we understand God to be a person (a restriction that we place on God) then we want to refer to God a him or her. Depending on our perception of the nature of God, we will either see God as male or female.

If I follow my argument that God exists outside our dimensions of existence then God may not be a person as we understand being a person to be. God may not be male or female as we understand male or female.

My understanding of God and my experience of that understanding are based on my experience of God and the limitations of the dimensions of my existence or expression available to me. We use our limited vocabulary and experience to express something that we do not have the full capacity to experience or describe.

I have written before that in logic systems, the proof that something is true only requires one proof of existence. To prove the universal negative (i.e. the non-existence of something), we have to show in all cases (dimensions of possible existence) that the conditions hold true (i.e. the universal negative applies). If we limit the dimensions of investigation, we can argue that the universal negative applies within those dimensions. When we acknowledge tat we can not claim to prove the universal negative.

If life exists in another solar system then we perceive it as being in a form that we understand as being life. We are restricted in our comprehension and understanding by our experience and knowledge. Our proofs of life or the non-existence of life is restricted to our dimensions of knowledge, existence, and understanding. It is only as we become aware of new dimensions that we see new possibilities and ways of expressing our experience or understanding.


Peter Lewis said...

Can science prove the existence of a god? Sure, the god turns up and says "Hi, I'm God, here watch me smite these people" (or something similar that can only be attributed to god-like powers).

Can science disprove the existence of a god? As you say, not likely, no more than it can disprove the existence of the Invisible Charlie Chaplin Impersonator that lives in my spare room.

But, science works by distrusting claims of the highly unlikely (God and the Invisible Charlie alike). Anything else leaves us vulnerable to an incorrect internal view of the state of the world and therefore makes us open to ignore the most important - and verified - things about which to make our normative judgements.

Errol and Marilyn Thompson said...

Some would argue that the bible already describes situations where god has turned up and smote the people but some in science wouldn't agree.

Distrusting claims, yes but does that mean that if something can not be found by science within its current constraints that it isn't there?

Peter Lewis said...

Yes, some do claim that the bible itself is sufficient evidence of the existence of God, but I doubt that a book constructed as that was and so long ago would alone be accepted as sufficient evidence for any other proposition, so why this one? Additionally, consider the existence of so many other "sacred" texts, and there's a vast amount of ambiguity, contradiction and wishful thinking to get past first. There's certainly no evidence there that's rigorous or reliable enough to pay too much attention to. (Though I'm all for trying to find historical information from ancient texts.)

And you're quite right of course: if science (within its current constraints or any future constraints) doesn't appear able to find something, this absolutely does not mean it's not there. But like I alluded to earlier, there's a virtually infinite space of possible things that might exist and we can't disprove. Why give this one any more time?

Errol and Marilyn Thompson said...

The bible is possibly one of the books that has the most research performed in relation to it. Most of these scholars would not see it as being a scientific text or even an history text. What it does reflect is the development of a relationship between initially Israel and her god. There is a surprising amount of the historical data that has been verified from other sources. Also some of the stories or myths have parallels in other societies.

When it comes to the New Testament, the historical evidence supports most of the events recorded. Independent historians do record events about Jesus.

The bible as a document is subversive and Jesus for many is the ultimate example of the shalom activist, the subversive pacifist. The more I learn about the context of many of Jesus' stories, the more I realise that he was challenging the society of his day and would still be challenging the society of our day.

Jesus was motivated by what is reported as his relationship with god. In seeking to understand his principles and what he argued for, I am led to an understanding of the nature of god and to what I would argue is a relationship with god. No, I can't pull him out of the hat and present him to others but the relationship has major relevance to what I do and how I behave.

Although the Old testament talks about a god who seems to have smote the people, that isn't the nature of the god with him I have come to have a relationship. God as I understand him is more interested in restorative relationships and shalom.

I would argue the evidence for god is what happens in people's lives when they enter into a relationship with him. There is however, a problem there since some of that evidence points toward violence, intolerance, and personal greed. None of these characteristics do I see at the heart of Jesus' teaching or in the god that I have come to know.

I won't relate church history here but many of the problems stem from Christianity becoming a state religion under Constantine. This led to enforced belief and the removal of many of the subversive pacifist community focus of the early church.

Unfortunately much of our understanding of god is tainted by the Christendom (state church) era.