Via The Friendly Atheist comes a link to this nicely-done list of answers to common myths about atheists. I especially like #3, “Atheists can’t disprove God.”
There is no onus of proof on atheists to disprove god…
However, if an atheist chooses to assert that there are no gods, and in particular chooses to assert that there is no personal intervening god with whom humans can have relationships, that atheist can reasonably argue that such an assertion is proportionate to the best currently available evidence.
Very nicely written, and recommended reading.
And by the way, one of my favorite answers to that argument is simply to rephrase it. By saying that atheists cannot prove that God does not exist, the believer is making the implicit claim that there is no argument that can disprove God’s existence. They cannot prove the non-existence of this incontrovertible proof against God, however, and therefore by their own logic atheists are justified in believing that such an argument does exist, even if the unbeliever themselves might not happen to know it. Consequently the best outcome the believer can hope for is a kind of solipsist agnosticism that reduces Christian “eternal truth” into merely a subjective fantasy.
How would you answer it?
“Atheists can’t prove God doesn’t exist.”
True. Nor can Christians prove that Odin and Changing Woman don’t exist.
Atheism isn’t about proof or disproof of anything. It’s merely the position that there is no convincing evidence that any god (or supernatural being of any kind) exists.
Do I win a cookie?
Tige Gibson says
I can prove Elvis Presley is not in my living room with me right now. It may not convince pseudo-skeptics, but I can bring in my neighbors, even the ones who don’t like me, and they would corroborate. If what you need is evidence and what you bring is allies, you’re admitting the bankruptcy and illegitimacy of your own claims.
Marcus Ranum says
Nobody proves anything, really. There’s no proof that god exists that isn’t mostly composed of flawed thinking. Anyone who expects a proof is basically raising the gullible roger and saying, “take me! me! meeee!”
I’m comfortable that there are very very strong arguments that god does not exist. Those arguments are enough to lead anyone that seriously considers them to reject the idea of god(s). Proof? No. But certainty to the same degree that causes most people to be unwilling to jump out of a skyscraper window: they’re sure enough of what’ll happen that they’re not willing to risk their life on their faith. That ought to be good enough for anyone; after all some christians value the idea that christians were willing to die for their faith – well, where did all those christians go? Because they seem to be awfully few on the ground these days.
Here are some things that are close enough to proof that there is no god:
– Modern science has detected nothing – not even the slightest little thing – that indicates there is a life after death
– Modern science has detected nothing – not even the slightest little thing – that indicates that prayer has any effect at all (proof that prayer doesn’t work: Las Vegas, NV)
– Modern science has detected nothing – not even the slightest little thing other than that there is a universe – that indicates it is governed by anything other than natural law
– Modern science has detected nothing – not even the slightest little thing – that indicates there are supernatural miracles that occur: Jesus is reduced to presenting blurry images in pieces of toast and other bread products but the various holy books are full of flying horses, zombie jews, cities getting levelled by angels with firy swords, and stuff that simply never happens any more. The only evidence that it happened at all is in a bunch of fairy tales from thousands of years ago. Why did god suddenly withdraw from the human stage? Could it be that people are just less ignorant? Could it be that humans ability to detect unusual events (or capture them on myriads of cellphone cameras?) has made it much harder for mountebanks to claim “miracles” occur? People believe in religions like christianity because of “miracles” that are much less impressive than a Penn and Teller show. What happened to the impressive miracles? They never happened, and they never will.
– Evolution offers an explanation of the diversity of life; abiogenesis theories offer an explanation of its origin. Neither of those explanations violate physical law or contradict known scientific conservation laws. Christians sometimes like to blather about how the second law of thermodynamics this or that… Well, the second law of thermodynamics says “there IS NO GOD.” Hint to christians: don’t invoke the laws of thermodynamics or any conservation laws, they just make you look stupid.
– God is not “infinite”; religious people who talk about knowing anything about an infinite god are just showing they know nothing about either infinity or god.
– An undetectable god is an unknowable god. If you try to protect your belief by calling upon unknowable nature, you’ve just announced that you’re ignorant (because: you fall in the category of “does not know”)
In sum: for there to be a god, we’d need local violations of all conservation laws, and we’d need them to be unobservable. Those conservation laws affect everything we experience; god would have to be breaking those constantly. God is unknowable and ineffable because god does not exist and that’s the only explanation for an unknowable god: there is none.
In fact, we can disprove the existence of God, if the God in question is defined accurately enough.
For example, the God of the young earth creationists, who supposedly created the world a few thousand years ago, is disproved by the actual age of the earth.
Also, the God of Harold Camping, who was supposed to end the world in 1988, or 1994, or 2011, is disproved by the ongoing existence of the world.
For this reason, I feel some kind of respect for the YEC’s and for Camping, because they at least have the guts to make some verifiable assertions about their beliefs.
Of course I’d have a lot more respect for them if they admitted they are mistaken, but apparently that’d be too much to ask.
Disproof of God?
Donald Trump is a serious Republican presidential candidate? 😉
Dick Cheney is still alive whilst Carl Sagan isn’t?