Philosophy of Religion – God, Proof & Science: Can God’s Existence be Scientifically Proven?

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Image Credit: Harbinger, 2016.

The philosophy of religion typically includes analyses of religious concepts, beliefs, arguments, and practices of religious adherents. One of the central tenets to this branch of contemporary philosophy is the analysis of arguments for and against the existence of God. Thus, though the vast majority of western philosophers are philosophical naturalists, the debate concerning the existence of God is lively, and thus a matter of healthy philosophical disagreement. Perhaps one such pertinent question concerns the relationship between God and proof, “Can God’s existence be scientifically proven?”

One might answer by pointing out that God’s existence cannot be proven in the same way, for instance, a statement like “the Earth orbits the sun” can be proven. When it comes to God, especially a classical theistic notion of God, such a conception is not open to proof or disproof by science. However, one might argue that this isn’t grounds for concluding that God does not exist in the same way that it isn’t grounds for rejecting the central tenets of, say, philosophical-naturalism (the philosophical belief that the natural world is all that exists, which isn’t a scientific belief to the dismay of many naturalists who conflate methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism) or any other philosophical, metaphysical belief.

But, as theists have tried to show, the issue here is that many are only looking for a certain kind of proof. They are looking for scientific proof, and if they cannot find it they then often conclude that God does not exist. However, if this line of thought is followed to its logical conclusion beyond just the question of God, it leads one into a number of considerations and logical issues. Why? Firstly, because even if the theist were to agree with the skeptic that there is no proof for the existence of God, scientific or otherwise, then we are best left with agnosticism, and not the atheism held by philosophical naturalists. Atheist-naturalists have to go further and forward reasons, proofs, and evidences for their atheistic-naturalism. The theist finds himself within a similar position, as in order to avoid agnosticism he needs to have positive reasons for belief in God.

Secondly, and most importantly, because all human beings, including skeptics, believe in empirically, scientifically unprovable assumptions about the universe of which we believe we are rational to hold to. Some of these being our metaphysical beliefs that the external world exists, that others minds exist other than my own, that certain actions are objectively morally evil as opposed to good, and so on. So, as some have pointed out, it is quite obvious that many skeptics aren’t really being all that consistent. If God is alleged to not exist, or that it is impossible that he exists, because he cannot be scientifically proven, then so must the skeptic’s philosophical naturalism, or any other philosophical beliefs, he holds be undermined. Thus, if the skeptic wants to be consistent, and rational, he has to concede that science cannot be the only way to determine the truth of beliefs.

As any competent and mindful professional scientist and philosopher of science will inform us, science is limited in its scope. The scientific method is phenomenal in acquiring and affirming knowledge about the universe but it is powerless to answer the ultimate philosophical questions of life: Why do we exist? Why does anything exist? What is the meaning of life? What is the value of life? Does God exist? These are questions that cannot be answered by science which suggests that we need to look beyond science to answer them.

Now, the theist might argue that we are rational to believe in God in the same way we are rational to believe in, say, the existence of the external world of physical objects. We can’t scientifically prove that this is the case, but we’re rational to hold to the belief. Why? Because there seems to be sufficient, though not indisputable, reasons to hold to the belief. The theist argues that belief in God is rational in the same way, though the skeptic would no disagree with him on that point. For example, there are a number of arguments, some of which theists view as convincing, that have been proposed, and that if successful and followed to their logical conclusions render belief in God rational and warranted. On this point, when it comes to the arguments for God’s existence, some of them include premises that are grounded on empirical evidence from the sciences. The Kalam cosmological argument, for example, weighs significantly on the scientific evidences for a beginning to the physical universe and space-time. The teleological argument marshals evidence from the apparent fine-tuning of the constants within the universe in favour of a designer. Other arguments, like the moral and ontological arguments, instead weigh on philosophical reasoning. For a brief summary of the relationship between science and theological arguments view my other essay.

Now, this brings one to the contention that “there’s no evidence or proof for God’s existence.” As has been argued before, this is intellectually dishonest on the skeptic’s part. To be charitable we need to admit that many sophisticated skeptics don’t argue such a line. That “there’s no evidence or proof for God’s existence” is mostly one taken by fundamentalist skeptics online who have just heard or read the phrase somewhere from others on forums and certain websites. Rather, the intellectually charitable skeptic is quite aware that there are serious considerations that need to be had when it comes to belief in God and the alleged arguments forwarded in favour of God’s existence.

Now, this isn’t to say that the arguments are sound but rather that dismissing them through the rhetoric that “there’s no evidence or proof for God” isn’t going to hold much intellectual fortitude. Nor will it seem to be a very intellectual position or one worth talking about. Similarly, a skeptic might accuse a theist of being intellectually dishonest if he said that there is no evidence in favour of naturalism, or that skeptics haven’t proposed evidences suggestive of such the conclusion that God might not exist or that his existence is improbable (the problem of evil and suffering and the advancements of science, for example). Now, one wouldn’t be a theist if he thought that their arguments were successful, but theists have to admit that there exist arguments that require serious engagement because if they are successful then belief in God must be rendered unwarranted.

As already stated, the philosophy of religion is a lively field. There are of course further trends emerging, including the relationship between feminism and theology, an interest in medieval philosophy of religion, and in numerous areas in which science and faith speak to each other. We will be examining these in some more detail at later stages.

So, in rounding off this essay, “Can God’s existence be scientifically proven?” Perhaps a better question to ask would be whether or not it is “rational to believe in God?” That certainly broadens the debate.

 

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14 responses to “Philosophy of Religion – God, Proof & Science: Can God’s Existence be Scientifically Proven?

  1. Let me start with the nuke, this god that some are not sure about intervenes to save life on a daily basis around the world. Often saving those that have there doubts, and tell’s them who it is. This includes the atheist. Some still don’t get it, even after it has intervened.

    This moves nicely onto the atheist. Who you will often find has come from a religious background or culture (Stalin was according to Wiki, came from a catholic background and started training that could have lead to him becoming a priest before declaring himself an atheist). Religion as my book is entitled Separates Man From God. So religion will eventually generate people who do not believe god exists.

    We move onto the scientist. A new discovery, What exactly is the break through. In most cases, the breakthrough is a new or renewed interest in the most advanced entity man is likely to come across. Science invariably is a study of god.

    Then just as we are dependent on the sun for the life supporting earth: subconsciously we are dependent on God to assist with keeping us alive, this is largely a subconscious dependence, not something most can sense.

    So where you won’t find god is in religion. The scientist are often the men and women who are actually observing god.

    • Uh…mm-no, Stalin was not Catholic. He attended orthodox Christian seminary schools mostly all of his childhood thru adult life.

      Science is a method consisting of observation, testing, and studying the natural world. It has nothing to do with studying a god.

      A well known storybook tells us that a god created the sun, which said was good, but it gives us cancer.

      I’m not quite sure where you learned the nonsense that you have uttered here.

      • I’m glad you think its nonsense, I do stand corrected The Russian Orthodox church and Catholic church are not the same thing, though they are different forms of Christianity. so your nonsense is my semantism. What are men studying in science. The new discoveries science uncovers are nature, nature has no origin it just appears, it has no origin, you have no origin, life has no origin. You will find, the well known story book attempts to study god, but the scientist is studying god. Einstein did not get to the bottom of science, because it was beyond him. Which is exactly what god is, that which is beyond humanity. Humans will never be in the position to dismiss god, be it a scientist or a man that thinks he knows everything, and what he doesn’t understand must be nonsense.

    • What is your basis for believing that religion separates man from God? What do you consider religion to be? What do you think God is?

      • Religion Separates Man From God, was initially from the thought Prayer rests you from God. I was very ill, and with nothing to lose (except my life) I prayed 100 times in a day, and realized I was resting from god. 3 years on, few grasp what I’m talking about.

        Religion, I’m really talking about mainstream religion, but most / a lot of mainstream religion will have merged with pre religion or paganism. Prayer and praise of god, are activities that predate, the main religions, and their are other practices. But the modern human is arguably religious, and arguably godless.

        What I think god is, is as I have agreed with James is based on a model, and that model is based on the world and its history. So if god is unknown to humans, then all I have left is use a model of god that can offer a reasonable explanation of humanity and human behavior. Some could argue then if god is unknown to humans then why not just say god does not exist. But I know god intervenes to save life, telling people who it is, so denying god will get me no where.

        Is it reasonable to say god is the most advanced entity we are likely to come across, to me yes.

        Is it reasonable to say god is something that is very difficult or impossible to kill, to me yes.

        So is the arms race likely to be something to do with being godlike or being godless. Why do light people lead the arms race. I’ve just written a response that argues morality is more closely associated with humanity, if as I suspect our consciousness puts us in conflict or at war with god, with few on humanities side, most including the religious are on gods side.

        A complex subject, that I am unlikely to perfect, but keep trying.

        • Thank you for taking the time to reply. It seems like you are jumping to a lot of conclusions but not really with a lot of basis.
          “I was very ill, and with nothing to lose (except my life) I prayed 100 times in a day, and realized I was resting from god.”
          Prayer is about having a relationship with God, what you are describing sounds like you were only begging to God. How many people have you formed a relationship with by only begging to them? Other thing is having that experience does not mean it is the same for everyone. There are a number of studies showing health benefits, including less anxiety, from praying.
          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-schiffman/why-people-who-pray-are-heathier_b_1197313.html
          http://stason.org/TULARC/health/alternative-medicine/Prayer-Health-Benefits.html#ixzz1hYB5ggZH
          https://www.newsmax.com/Health/Headline/prayer-health-faith-medicine/2015/03/31/id/635623/

          “But the modern human is arguably religious, and arguably godless.”
          What is the argument that the modern human is religious and godless?

          “So if god is unknown to humans”
          What do you mean when you say God is unknown to humans and how do you know this to be the case?

          • By unknown, I mean we do not understand what god is. We can give this entity characteristics, it can save our life and tell us who it is, but I’m not convinced humans do understand what god is.

            You’re keen to highlight the healing properties of prayer, and I’m sure there are other benefits too. I suggest in my book, healing associated with prayer ‘may’ work on the principle, that weakening the body and mind by pushing god away with prayer may encourage a reaction by the body, that encourages healing, that is pushing god away stresses mind and body, causing a positive reaction.

            Sit with me on a plane listening to the terrorist chanting ‘god is great’ before flying into the twin towers. Or the terrorist shouting ‘this is for allah’ before stabbing people to death on a London street. Or watch a priest being blown to bits on the beaches of D Day France as he tries to erect a makeshift altar. The bible will regularly tell you of conflict and how religion is never far away.. All godless acts with religion never far away, yet most have not a clue what I’m talking about. Most have no idea, we are at war with god, so incredulity does not surprise me, the religious are on god’s side, a handful (who are not religious) on humanities side.

            How far away is the nearest religious building to you? Here in Birmingham UK, the nearest to me is about 100 yards. it isn’t the only religious building on the planet. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to feed a baby, that religion pushes god away, its not going to happen.

            I have a model of god, that explains humanity, and human behavior, particularly why we are violent, and kill. The arms race fits that model. If the model I suggest makes no sense to you, keep praying, while we both watch the world and its violence. You are not meant to see what I’m talking about. You are not supposed to be able to apply the idea to see if religion purpose is to push god away. The world continues to pray, and we continue to witness violence.

            I take your point about begging, if we both talk at the same time neither will hear what the other says, this is how I see prayer and praise of god, its action is to push god away.

            ‘Religion Separates Man From God,’ an e book

          • So because I would consider what god is, is unknown to us, I use a model of what god is, that to me at least can reasonably explain our history, humanity, human behavior.

            Going back to your point a 100 prayers is more like begging. Here we have potential for some common ground, And yes a relationship is more desirable. I would go further, we should attract god, and rest from god. I would say religion to me is in the undesirable mode, it is excessive, it pushes away god.

            What I do to ‘rest’ from god is pain recognition exercise in the form of pain recognition yoga. Where higher consciousness obtained with ‘sustainable levels’ of pain, (in my opinion) rests us (me) from god. So you may not agree but I can see my own thinking is not a million miles from yours. There maybe other ways, to rest from god, but I’m sure religions aren’t one of them.

            Something on another level leads me to suspect our consciousness, puts us in conflict with god or at war with god. The Adam and Eve tree of life story comes to mind. The religious are on gods side, the handful of non religious are on humanities side. To reach the point where god is no longer at war with us, 1. no religion, 2. humans stop killing humans.

            ‘Religion Separates Man From God,’ an ebook

        • Michael Barnett
          You’ve put a lot of thought based on conclusions but painfully little on the conclusions themselves.

          “mind by pushing god away with prayer may encourage a reaction by the body”
          “I take your point about begging, if we both talk at the same time neither will hear what the other says, this is how I see prayer and praise of god, its action is to push god away.”
          Unfortunately, you did not.
          When you hold conversation with people are doing so with the intention of pushing them away? Conversations are about getting closer to people, not pushing them away. If you take the time to look at others you may find that many people who are closest to God, have this dialogue with him. It sounds like you chose a one-sided relationship one way and when you realized that did not work chose the one-sided relationship in the other without it ever occurring to you that any good relationship goes both ways, not one or the other. You don’t only talk in a good relationship or only listen, you listen and talk.

          “religious are on god’s side, a handful (who are not religious) on humanities side.”
          You seem very obsessed with the negatives done by those who claim to be religious while completely ignoring the the negatives of the nonreligious. You understand that finding examples of religious people doing something bad does not magically mean that all religious are bad. There is a reason the vast majority of those in groups such as Doctors Without Borders are religious, there is a reason why the religious are much more charitably than the non-religious.
          If you use non-religion as a placebo to measure whether religion caused more harm than good, it is very obvious that if anything it is preventing more violence. There is less than 1 in a thousand religious leaders that killed a notable percentage of their population, this compares to 58% of non-religious. Non-religious killed several times the number of religious leaders.
          https://web.archive.org/web/20130310113024/http://www.pewforum.org/Religion-News/Religious-people-make-better-citizens-study-says.aspx
          https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-11-15-column15_ST_N.htm
          https://books.google.com/books?id=bf3m7IVAa9gC&pg=PA461&dq=France+atheism+guillotine++Christians+executed&hl=en&sa=X&ei=l4lUUaTRBufG0QGe0IHACA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=France atheism guillotine Christians executed&f=false

          “The world continues to pray, and we continue to witness violence.”
          That violence has been increasing with less prayer not decreasing, as I highlighted with the statics. Wherever Christianity spreads, democracy has been increasing and human rights abuses decrease. Christians are the ones that finally started ending slavery, first in the Roman and later against the colonialists.

          “I would say religion to me is in the undesirable mode, it is excessive, it pushes away god.”
          Again, you are not giving reason as to why it pushes God away, all the conclusions you are giving don’t appear to have any basis for any of it beyond wishful thinking.

          “You are not meant to see what I’m talking about. You are not supposed to be able to apply the idea to see if religion purpose is to push god away.”
          Does it not sound unreasonable that God would want people to hear and know his words? If religion is so bad why is it that it does so much more good than bad? If God is pushed away by religion why does he allow the religious to do so much more for the wellbeing of humanity than their nonreligious counterparts?
          You understand that using poetic wording to make words sound pleasant does not mean that they have any more substance than before, you seem to be trying to use wording to make up for the lack of substance and real thought.

          • I have said a substantial amount, it takes time to absorb. My first reaction, conflict and killing suggest to me, we are at war with god, or god is at war with humanity. Why should I expect good things to come from religious humans. Secondly, this is part of a model. so few will feel comfortable applying it to see if anything makes sense. Thirdly. you can argue the source of violence is with non religious. This is often the atheist, who comes from religion ( pushing away god will often leave you with some people who think god does not exist), You fail to accept, few parts of the world do not have some form of religion in the background.

            I agree violence is in recent years affects not all of us, but violence still comes from the majority, who have a religious background. You say 1% of religious leaders and 58% of non religious leaders are are violent to their people. You will find religion behind the 58% so called non religious leaders.

            If we are at war with god, if, where do we find our morality, I suggest within humanity, and from ways that increase our humanity, I mentioned exercise maybe other ways. Rest from god, using exercise, pain recognition exercise, NOT with religion that pushes god away.

            You mention why do we have so much literature, or I think you did, concerning religion if it is so bad for us, again, we are at war with god. You looking for morality in the wrong place.

            You mention charities religious doctors and their good work, the end of slavery from Christians. This is indeed good from religion. But you fail to see that they are putting things right that originated from religion, they feel guilt, they see themselves, they see (often after the fact or the damage has been done by religion) their humanity, they see what their religion has done and their humanity and shame finds them.

            I’m rushing this response, we are at war with god. But I cannot stop you from looking for humanity, morality in religion, because you are on god’s side.

            1. Stop, or at least minimize religion, and those that practice religion. 2. Stop killing, this ‘should’ stop the war with god.

            Remember this is a model, it it makes no sense to you, nothing is lost, the religious are not wasted.

            ‘Religion Separates Man From God,’ an ebook

        • Michael

          “I have said a substantial amount, it takes time to absorb.”
          Does it occur to you that you are failing to absorb yourself?

          “Why should I expect good things to come from religious humans.”
          How about because of the things I highlighted about the good the religious have done?

          “Secondly, this is part of a model.”
          Does it occur to you that your model might match to a flawed understanding of the world around you?

          “you can argue the source of violence is with non religious.”
          I did not. I highlighted that blaming violence on religion does not make sense, since the no-religious have greater issue with it.

          “You fail to accept, few parts of the world do not have some form of religion in the background.”
          At no point did I fail to accept that, you are reading many false words from what I am saying.

          “You will find religion behind the 58% so called non religious leaders.”
          This a completely blind statement without any facts given to back it up.

          “Rest from god, using exercise, pain recognition exercise, NOT with religion that pushes god away.”
          Again you are failing to show that religion pushes God away, I’ve highlighted that none of your reasoning shows this.

          “But you fail to see that they are putting things right that originated from religion, they feel guilt, they see themselves, they see (often after the fact or the damage has been done by religion) their humanity, they see what their religion has done and their humanity and shame finds them.”
          You have a very bad need to study up on their history. Quite a large majority were not ashamed by the actions of their religion into doing it. They understood it to be wrong in large part from the teachings of their religion. Christian’s were not ashamed of the actions of the Roman religion into ending slavery, they did because they knew to love their neighbor as themselves. They do not continue to do charity in other nations because they are ashamed of their religion, they did so because they knew it was right.
          You are making up stuff that is very obviously in blatant contradiction of reality.

          “You mention why do we have so much literature”
          No I did not, you are not taking the time to think through what I am saying.

          “I’m rushing this response, we are at war with god. But I cannot stop you from looking for humanity, morality in religion, because you are on god’s side. “
          Instead of rushing your response maybe you should try to put though into it.
          You are saying religion is on God’s side but pushes God away and is against humanity and God saves. I think you should realize by now that you have fundamental contradictions in your views. God saves us but being religions and as you say therefore on his side means being against humanity. This is very illogical, if God wants to save people, and therefore humanity, then being on his side would not mean being against humanity, as it actually lines up with what God wants. You can’t be on someone side by pushing them away, if religion is on God’s side then it cannot be pushing God away as that is a fundamental contradiction.
          This also comes back to the problems with your understanding of prayer. If all you do is pretend to listen to someone and never communicate with that someone, you do not have a healthy relationship with that someone. It is the equivalent of watching a TV screen and thinking you have a relationship with someone on the screen. This is describing the relationship you’ve chosen with God, because you found that talking to him non-stop did not work. Any good relationship is both ways, hearing God’s word and speaking with him through prayer.

          “1. Stop, or at least minimize religion, and those that practice religion.”
          Again you’ve completely failed to demonstrate that this is the case and there is quite a bit of strong reason against it being so.

          “Remember this is a model, it it makes no sense to you, nothing is lost, the religious are not wasted.”
          I understand your model. But it is very obvious that your model only works because you warp your view of reality to fit it, in ways that absurdly contradict reality. You lack both understanding of God and reality and you refuse to take the time to understand before reaching the conclusions that appease you and your model.

          • My warped reality, can explain your world and your religion. I start with Religion pushes god away, and the rest follows, quite easily. So while you pin medals on your religious brothers and sisters. I run with the Rohingya, until I fall with them.

            While you fail to see a war with god, I’ll fight on alone.

            ‘Religion Separates Man From God,’ an ebook.

            • “I start with Religion pushes god away”
              This is the problem in a nutshell, you started with the conclusion. All of your reasoning is based on conclusion you cannot justify even remotely. Religion does not separate man from God, it brings them closer as does prayer, when you are willing to listen and not just speak.
              In all irony you’ve created your own religion that you can’t even remotely justify.

              It is mostly religious people who fight for the Rohingya, you are choosing to fight some of the very people trying to help. As a result you are not fighting for or alongside them but against them.

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