I’ve become involved in yet another email debate with an atheist friend. I forwarded our latest back and forth to my husband and he had these thoughts which, as usual, brought a lot of clarity to the discussion. (You can tell he’s a lawyer.) He writes:
I think there are two things this discussion is missing: (1) laboratory proof vs. court room proof, and (2) where does the burden of proof lie.
Burden of Proof
I didn’t create myself, and I definitely didn’t create the universe. Since it exists, I’m going to assume it got here somehow. I guess it *could* be just random chance, but it sure does seem a little too complex for that.
So, I think the first question one has to ask is, “Do I need to prove God’s existence or do I need to disprove it?” What is my first assumption? That some sort of higher power brought all this into existence, or that all of this brought itself into existence randomly somehow? Every good scientific enquiry begins with a definition of assumptions and parameters.
Lab Proof vs. Courtroom Proof
Very few things in life including lots of scientific stuff like meteorology, economics, some astronomy (such as, what is inside the Sun) can be proven in the lab using the scientific method (which, by the way, means nothing more than “have a control, repeat the experiment multiple times varying only one element of the experiment at a time.”) Yet we have learned much from all of these areas of learning.
Philosophy and psychology and sociology also have taught us much about ourselves, yet only a few things in these areas of learning can really be reduced to a repeatable experiment.
All kinds of very important things have to be determined (think of criminal trials) based on incomplete evidence. In those cases we don’t try to create a repeatable experiment that “proves” or “disproves” it. And we don’t throw up our hands when it becomes clear that an experiment is not going to answer the question with 100% certainty. Instead, we assemble the evidence and weigh it.
And that is the only kind of inquiry that we can do regarding God’s existence. At the end of the day, we have to ask, “Given all that I know, does it seem more likely that there is some sort of higher power out there, or is this all just randomness?”
If you put the burden of proof on God, and if you wait for a perfect experiment to come along, then you have already pre-determined the outcome. If you approach it that way, what would it take for God to prove his own existence? Would he have to come down to Earth and do a bunch of miracles?
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