Disproving God?

Every once in a while, I run across an essay or a blog post in which someone claims to have discovered solid evidence that proves the non-existence of God. And every time I do so, I find myself shaking my head.

There are two fundamental flaws with making statements like that.

First, unless you defined with some precision the word “God”, what exactly is it you think you’re proving doesn’t exist? Second, how in the world do you go about proving a negative? As far as I can remember from my studies in logic, such a thing is just not possible.

Scientist and prominent atheist Sean Carroll, who is billed in this piece as Stephen Colbert’s favorite scientist, apparently believes one can do this. He is quoted in the article as saying, “I strongly feel that the methods of science and empirical investigation can be brought to bear on all interesting questions about the fundamental nature of the universe, including whether or not God exists, and the evidence is pretty incontrovertible that he doesn’t.”

After trampling all over the time-honored scientific principle of cause and effect by waving his arms while saying, “It’s not true that every effect has a cause!”, Carroll suggests that the Universal Laws shouldn’t be viewed in that context but rather as patterns. He hypothesizes, “The universe might have had a beginning, or it might have existed forever, we just don’t know. There’s certainly no reason to think that there was something that “caused” it; the universe can just be.”

This is, in essence, his attempt to destroy the uncaused-first-cause argument that generally leads one to conclude that something must have always existed without having to be the result of a cause we cannot identify (and, therefore, God).

I think it fails.

All it really does is to move the question of why the universe should exist at all back (or up) one level, from causality to pattern. But it begs the question of how the patterns emerge, what shapes their Truth, why this pattern and not that? In other words, it simply substitutes one mystery for another, seemingly less mysterious one. While I don’t disagree with Carroll’s insight, I simply find it unhelpful in understanding Reality, which is the dual province of science and religion/philosophy.

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