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In this paper I summarize, analyze, and critique "Can science prove that God does not exist.", by Theodore Schick Jr, on pages 484 to 487, a contemporary issue in Chapter 5 of the textbook. I discuss it with references to the chapter in MLA format. A short summary of the argument is provided, and then analysis is conducted on two underlying assumptions. Analysis of the assumptions is the type of analysis that is necessary to understand philosophy in these different contemporary issues. Often the actual logic used is sound; however, the underlying assumptions for the logic are typically not supportable. Here first, that God and natural explanation for a phenomenon are mutually exclusive; and second that if God is both Merciful and Just, it is a contradiction, meaning that to prove that God does not exist you simply need to be able to demonstrate that the concept of God is inconsistent.
Summary of Article and Main Points
Schick provides some good arguments, and uses logic and deductive reasoning in his thinking, however the underlying assumptions of his arguments need to be examined. Schick's opening argument in this article is that the nature of God is an unrestricted negative (Goldinger and Burr 484). He defines an unrestricted negative as a claim that something must be proven to not exist anywhere, which relies on the inability for anyone to actually check everywhere in the universe as the counter argument for defending a concept. In this case God; Schick is saying that theists attempt to put the burden of proof for the non-existence of God on the non-theist, and then argue that since they cannot prove God does not exist anywhere, there can be no proof that God does not exist at all.
Schick then goes on to define a fundamental Law of Logic, the Law of Noncontradiction (Goldinger and Burr 484). He says that the principle that no one can prove an unrestricted negative is a violation of a fundamental Law of Logic, making it a fallacious argument. In the article, this establishes, to his mind, the dismissal of the unrestricted negative argument and shifts the burden of proof back on the theist to prove the existence of God, not on him to disprove it. However, he generously agrees to carry the burden of disproof even after showing that it is beyond the reasonable necessary scope of his argument. Schick says that to prove that God does not exist, you simply need to be able to demonstrate that the concept of God is inconsistent (Goldinger and Burr 484-485). He then provides some examples; if God is both Merciful and Just, it is a contradiction that God would both punish evildoers while at the same time forgiving sins, and so on.
Schick suggests that sciences prefers natural explanations to supernatural ones (Goldinger and Burr 468). While not going into detail, he is hinting at the well know argument concerning the God of the Gaps. This is the case where theological doctrine provides God as the explanation for an event, only later to have science provide a natural explanation for the event. This suggests to some that religion is fighting a constantly retreating battle of concepts, where more and more science is providing explanation for phenomenon. Schick does ask: Does our inability to explain a phenomenon through science prove there is a God? No, he says, it simply proves our inability to explain a phenomena (Goldinger and Burr 486).
Schick summarizes his final argument by saying that theists must prove a negative to prove God, by demonstrating that there is no natural explanation for a phenomenon, only a supernatural Godly explanation (Goldinger and Burr 487). Because there are innumerable examples of times when theological explanations have been replaced with natural science based ones, he concludes, there is enough data to show that they cannot prove God's existence, yet there is ample proof against it.
It is often best in philosophical analysis to at first set aside the logic of an argument, and instead dive into the underlying assumptions that the logic is built upon. Let us take several of Schick's main points and find the assumptions in detail. One of his main assumptions is that God and natural explanation for a phenomenon are mutually exclusive; and a second assumption is that if God is both Merciful and Just, it is a contradiction, meaning that to prove that God does not exist you simply need to be able to demonstrate that the concept of God is inconsistent.
Are Godly explanations and natural explanations mutually exclusive?
This is an argument that has been around for some time that miraculous explanations with God as the cause, over time, have been giving way to scientific explanations that align to our current understanding of the natural universe and its natural laws. This is a fallacious argument, as it rests on the assumption that because we can understand an event through repeatable and definable frameworks (which we call science), it means that theological explanations are not valid. For example, in the Bible it says God created the heavens and the Earth. This was viewed as an acceptable explanation for many thousands of years. Now, however, we have surmised through science that the earth was formed as a rotating ball of cosmic dust over billions of years, and that gravity was the primary factor in its creation, not God. Further, it is argued that we know this because we have used our minds to formulate experiments that we can conduct with repeatable outcomes, which allow us to deduce this explanation.
This argument is assuming a single cause, either God, or Not-God; this is not a valid form of reasoning. There are two built in assumption here that lead to this, first that because we figured it out it means that God was not involved. There is no basis for this assumption other than a desire for it to be true. Second, that because gravity and space dust are our current scientific explanation, that this is in fact what happened. There have been no conclusive scientific experiments that have duplicated the forming of the earth; Scientists have never created a universe where a duplicate earth was formed. All belief scenarios, that God created the earth using magic, that God created the earth using gravity, and that the earth was created using gravity but without God, are unproved belief constructs. One set of constructs applied to the logical side of our brains, and the other to the theological side of our brains.
Arguing one over the other is often an attempt to support some higher-level argument and belief system, in support of personal human feelings. Either we feel better believing there is a God, or we feel better arguing that we are capable of finding our own answers.
Does proving that the concept of God is inconsistent demonstrate God does not exist?
Schick's second assumption in his arguments is that proving our concept of God is inconsistent is to prove that God does not exist. This is a false dilemma, and it transposes our ability to define God onto God as a measurable attribute. It could very well be that as people we do not poses the linguistics or intellect to define God; however, our inability to do so has nothing to do with a proof or disproof of Gods existence. To use Schick's own argument where he suggested that our inability to define something in science only prove our own inability, not the existence of God; the same logic extends to the fact that our own inability to define God only proves our own inabilities, not the non-existence of God.
Taking this counter argument a step farther into one of his examples, the fact that God's dual attributes of both Mercy and Justice may seem to be a contradiction to us, this apparent contradiction goes no farther to shed light on the existence of God than it does to prove it. There are many real possibilities, the first is that these in the end are not actual contradictions, the second that they are not actual attributes of God, and the third is that our ability to define them may be sufficiently lacking thus interfering with our ability to analyze their relationship and true meaning. These arguments are semantic in nature. An interesting question in all of this is which is more beneficial to us as people, to know there is a God, to hope there is a God, to hope there is no God, or to know there is no God.
Many of these arguments come from either a desire to help, or a desire to harm, on some sociological scale that is unique to each individual, against some set of logic and drivers that can only be know personally to each one of us. Schick provides some good arguments, and uses logic and deductive reasoning in his thinking. A challenge to arguing in this space is that you must build certain assumptions into your arguments to serve as the foundation for the argument. For example, in these arguments there is built in the assumption that our ability to define the duel nature of God is accurate and understandable to us; and that Godly and natural explanations are mutually exclusive, relying on a single cause to disprove the other.
This is the type of analysis that is necessary to understand philosophy in these different argument spaces and contemporary issues. Often the actual logic used is sound in either case; however, the underlying assumptions for the logic are typically not supportable. The difficulty here is in determining when you will choose to believe an underlying assumption because it fits within your own personal physiological reality, and when you will allow that reality to be challenged to open your mind to new ideas.