“Science cannot guarantee
That God does not exist”;
This is true, although it’s bound to cause confusion.
Science speaks more cautiously
But roughly, here’s the gist:
Simply, God can’t be distinguished from illusion.
Long, involved, science-based rant, after the jump:
Deepak Chopra (wait, you said “science-based”–I know, but I’m arguing against him) has a piece up at the SFGate, where he gets everything terribly wrong. He has found a scientist–a physicist!–to quote, and to tour the country with, and boost his scientific street-cred. Leonard Mlodinow (physicist, Caltech) is quoted lovingly:
While science often casts doubt on spiritual beliefs and doctrines insofar as they make representations about the physical world, science does not–and cannot–conclude that God is an illusion.
It is odd, though, that Chopra gloms onto a physicist, because the rest of his article sings the praises of spirituality–and claims that spirituality plays by different rules than does science:
It’s in the very nature of spirituality not to conform to everyday reason and logic. The point of spirituality is to transcend the ordinary world and reveal something invisible, unknown, and yet part of ourselves.
So why should we care what a physicist says?
Any scientist, speaking outside of her or his field, is at best an interested amateur, and at worst a blinkered fool. The “spiritual” experience of a person is not a physicist’s bailiwick; an expert physicist, all other things being equal, knows Jack Shit about perception and cognition. Chopra’s “science” is physics, chemistry, and biology; his mysteries are introductory level psychology.
Let us assume that Chopra’s god exists. None of this atheists won’t even take the first step of opening their minds… Nope, we start out assuming that his god does exist. Simple question: how can he know it?
It took the invention of telescopes for us to know there were other galaxies. Incredible telescopes to know there were more than a handful. Space-based telescopes to know there are more galaxies in space than grains of sand on the beach. And yet, these galaxies were there all along, ready to be observed and verified. Anyone can look at the pictures. Anyone can look at the optics to see how we are looking, and what we are looking at. Chopra’s god is even more complex, and more hidden from view. How can Chopra know his god exists? Again, even assuming He does?
We know a tremendous amount about the biases and limitations of our senses. We know a tremendous amount about the biases and limitations of our thinking. The way we would know about Deepak Chopra’s god is limited by our human frailties. The honest truth of the matter is, if Chopra’s god did exist, we would have no way at all of distinguishing His existence from illusion.
Of course, we can choose to use other lenses. We can look anthropologically, sociologically, psychologically. We can see simpler explanations, historical traces, functional equivalents of Chopra’s god evolving over time in response to changes in the social environment. We can see perfectly good reasons for Chopra to believe in his god, whether or not his god actually exists.
Mlodinow is quite right–“science does not–and cannot–conclude that God is an illusion”–but in truth, his next sentence should read “all that science can do is show that God is indistinguishable from illusion.”
So, yeah. God could exist, or we could have the exact same perceptions and beliefs without the existence of a god.
Which is more likely?