Michael holds a BA in Biology with a minor in Philosophy. He likes to spend his free time hiking and defending science, though not usually at the same time. Contrary to popular (but not scientific) belief, the positive and appropriate perception of science is undermined by religion, alternative medicine, the U.S. education system, and most science journalists.
Michael, I had a quick question for you that sort of loosely relates to this. There are some people, like Victor Stenger, who would assert that not only is there not enough evidence to conclude that God exists, but that such an entity is actually impossible. Victor Stenger comes to this conclusion by asserting that the Judeo-Christian God’s characteristics can’t be reconciled with what science understands about reality, but one could also get there by noting the paradoxes inherent in the story itself, asking questions like, “How can an entity be spaceless and timeless and also be everywhere at once?” or “How can an all-powerful God be all-loving if He allows evil?”
So my question for you is twofold: 1. Would you agree with Victor Stenger and others who would assert that a Judeo-Christian God, with the characteristics He is described as having by those religions, is actually impossible? and 2. What would you call a person who asserts as much? Atheism, after all, is not an assertion of impossibility, but rather a descriptive term (See, I’ve been listening) that only describes an individual as not believing.
Personally, I found Stenger’s argument to be very compelling and I’d like to come along with him in asserting the impossibility of such an entity, but I notice that most prominent gnu atheists, most of whom have probably read his work, don’t seem to argue this way, so I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks.
If we’re talking about a specific god, in particular the Judeo-Christian one, then odds are we can safely assert a claim and say it doesn’t exist. Personally, I think the Argument from Evil does a pretty solid job of showing that such a god is logically incoherent, but I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons for rejecting it.
The reason we can do this is that specific gods come with specific claims*. That means we may be able to falsify them (for instance, prayer does not work) or we might able to simply point to some piece of strong philosophy; we are accepting and addressing the burden of proof. When it comes to a creator in general, though, we can’t really do this. Ultimately, the best creator claim is one that is completely superfluous with reality, thus making it useless, but also unfalsifiable. It’s no different than arguing that unicorns are all-powerful. And we can’t disprove unicorns. So it is there that it would be wrong to assert a claim. I’ve only read one of Stenger’s books (and it was years ago), so I’m not sure if this is how he would analyze things, but I suspect it is.
*One might take notice of the fact that these specific claims are constantly being shifted. Sticking to a solid position that can be pinned down is dangerous for the theist.