There aren’t any zogweebles, either

I guess I have to continue this discussion, even though I felt like I hammered it to death last time, since the comment thread is getting so long I have to close it, and since Jerry Coyne still disagrees with me. I’ll aim for brevity instead of exhaustion this time.

The disagreement is over whether we can find any evidence for a god. Here’s a small part of Jerry’s argument against my claim that we can’t.

First, though, I find it curious that an atheist would assert, a priori, that nothing could make him believe in a god. While some atheists may assert simply that there is no god, most of us claim that we see no evidence for a god, and that’s why we don’t believe. But to make a statement like that presumes that there could be some evidence that would make you accept God’s existence.

I’m pretty fond of evidence myself, but I think we have to ask ourselves, “evidence of what?” Now if a believer makes a specific claim, such as that his gods answer prayers to heal disease, I would say that we could measure and test that idea: we could have him mumble over some beads, begging his gods to repair a series of sick people, and we could assess whether the bead-mumbling has any significant effect. It could fail (most likely), or it could work, surprising me and causing me to re-evaluate my opinion of the power of bead-mumbling, and say that we have evidence of the efficacy of bead-mumbling in treating illness.

But I say that we wouldn’t have evidence of any gods.

I won’t repeat my previous explanations, but will simply summarize by saying that the god hypothesis is incoherent, causally inadequate, unsupported by any other line of evidence, inconsistent with what we do know about how the universe works, and also internally inconsistent in all religions. Gods are simply bad ideas that don’t even deserve the dignity of being treated as an alternative explanation for anything.

We can have the logical possibility of finding phenomena in the natural world that have been traditionally hidden from explanation by sweeping them into the category of “the gods did it,” but I say that gods have never been and never can be an adequate answer. Once you’ve got evidence for something, it’s no longer a member of the set of mysteries under godly purview.

It’s like the old joke, “What do you call alternative medicines that have been shown to work? Medicine.” What I’m asking here is what should you call supernatural explanations that actually work and lead to deeper understanding of the universe…and the answer is science. All gods vanish in the first puff of understanding.