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  Topic: AFDave's God Hypothesis, Creation/Evolution Debate< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 20
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: April 30 2006,02:09   

afdave: I think you've slightly misunderstood what constitutes a scientific prediction. A valid prediction must answer a yes-or-no question that isn't already known, but that we can go out and check.

For example, using the most up-to-date hypothesis of gravity I can calculate the position that an arbitrary heavenly body will be in at a later date. I can then go out with my telescope and verify or falsify that prediction. If I falsify it, that means that the hypothesis is dodgy.

The reason we use this definition is that any hypothesis that can give rise to this sort of prediction has the potential to increase our ability to manipulate the universe. For example, Einstein's quantum mechanical hypotheses allow us to predict how electrons will behave in semiconductors and thus let us build transistors. Faraday's electromagnetic hypotheses allow us to communicate at great distances. The various chemical hypotheses developed over the centuries allow us to produce materials that our ancestors wouldn't even think to dream of.

Looking at the statements you list as predictions, I can't see any that fulfil this criterion. In particular:

a) "sophisticated stuff exists" is not a prediction as the answer is already known. If you could find a way to anticipate the existence of specific sophisticated stuff that hadn't yet been discovered and that wouldn't be predicted to the same degree of specificity by naturalistic hypotheses, that would constitute a valid prediction.

b) "big, impressive stuff exists" is not a prediction for the same reason. Scientists will only listen if you actually tell them something they didn't know (that they can go out and confirm)

c) To the extent to which this is a prediction, it would also be one that's made by purely naturalistic explanations. In particular, it's notable that the societal behaviours that tend to be conserved across cultures are precisely those that are essential for the survival of a complex society. My experience is that any other "law" will inevitably come with its own little set of counterexamples.

d) Again, this doesn't predict anything that we don't already know. As an aside, I'd note that the same argument could be used to infer the existence of many Gods and other supernatural entities. What is your rationale for applying it solely to the idea of a unitary creator God?

e) Again, the "prediction" here is something that we already know to be true. Actually, we also have some fairly sophisticated ideas about why it's true - for example, out-of-body experiences appear to relate to the deactivation of a specific part of the brain.

f) Again, this doesn't predict; it merely explains. It adds absolutely nothing to the sum total of human knowledge, merely substituting a useless platitude ("Goddidit") for further serious investigation.

g) Again, this is something that we already know. Now, if a number of religious people had been predicting time dilation before its existence was uncovered, that would be a different matter entirely. To get an actual valid prediction going here, you'd need to predict the existence of a novel phenomenon that hasn't yet been observed, and then go out and confirm its existence. If you pull that off, you'll win a Nobel and I'll quite possibly become a Christian.

My background: I'm currently a maths student at Cambridge, UK. I've been an atheist for pretty much as long as I've given the issue any thought. That's probably my parents' fault, but I've done sufficient investigation of religious beliefs to satisfy myself that my position is probably right. The investigation consisted (in part) of 7 years attendance of a mostly-YEC Baptist youth club, where I was always the one who spent hours discussing theology with the leaders whilst all the Christian kids were playing football :p

  198 replies since April 27 2006,06:34 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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