“Well, you can’t prove that god doesn’t exist”.
Uh, yes I can.
I’m sure many of you have heard this “argument” before. Here’s a three-pronged destruction of this attempt to dodge the question that no theist can answer (“What proof do you have?”). The last nail in the coffin is saved for last – I’m sure many of you have heard the first two points but not many will have heard the last.
1. Why are you asking me to disprove your theory? That’s a burden of proof fallacy. You came up with the idea, you prove it. You don’t see me running around screaming at people “Prove I can’t fly!”. When a scientist comes up with a new theory, it’s backed by years of research, correlation with existing years of research, multiple experimentation and is then peer reviewed. When a theist has some theory his only proof is “well, you can’t prove it’s wrong”.
Well guess what? That’s literally irrational behaviour. For a refresher, see my post about Rationalism but the short of it is that rational behaviour is based on mathematical likelihood. It’s highly likely that jumping into lava will kill you, therefore it is irrational to believe otherwise. In terms of the burden of proof, the burden lies with whoever is making the extraordinary claim. As Carl Sagan once said:
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
What does this mean? Imagine I claim there is a tree in my backyard. Would a rational person contest my claim (at his own expense)? No, because even if I’m lying it’s highly likely that there is a tree in my backyard and there is little reason why I would lie about it – therefore not much proof is needed for me to assert my claim. Now, what if I claimed that I had a cat riding a unicorn shooting rainbow lasers in my backyard? Would you require proof before believing that? Apparently theists wouldn’t.
2. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because something hasn’t been proven to not exist, doesn’t therefore mean that it does. That’s a logical fallacy called false dichotomy. It’s also stupid – because you can think up myriad things that can’t be proven not to exist. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a crowd favourite. Russel’s Teapot is another – you can’t prove that there isn’t a teapot orbiting Jupiter but there’s no rational cause for you to believe that in the first place.
Sometimes this is used to defend religion – just because there is no evidence of god doesn’t mean that god doesn’t exist. Well, science doesn’t work in absolutes but there is literally no rational reason for you to believe in god. However, I can indeed prove that god (or at least the definition of god as is understood by the major religions today) does not exist, which makes it doubly irrational to believe.
3. There can never be any proof of god. Why? Let’s take a look at the foundation of proof. As with the Rationalism movement, mathematics is a fundamental concept for proof. 1+1=2 regardless of what you apply it to, what you believe in and what you experience with your senses. Therefore, it follows that maths is the absolute proof – if it can exist, it can be described mathematically in some way or form. Mind you, not everything that is mathematically reconcilable exists (or at least not all of them have been proven). Maths is just the large boundary separating the possible from the impossible – just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s real; but if it’s impossible then it’s definitely not real.
The problem? You cannot mathematically describe god because that would be akin to removing his omnipotence. If the singularity is a point of infinite mass and infinite gravity, how do you describe a god that created this infinity? 2 x infinity? Infinity squared? It’s still infinity. Are you thus claiming that god is equal in power to a singularity? God, by definition, breaks all universal laws and defies all mathematics. It is therefore impossible to provide any proof of god – and by extension god cannot rationally exist. It is an empty concept that has lingered since ancient times for small minds to placate themselves in the absence of knowledge.
Many theists acknowledge this problem and have said that it is impossible to find any evidence of god in the universe because the act of finding such evidence would mean that god is bound by some sort of parameters allowing us to find his hand in things – hence removing his omnipotence. Fair enough, at least these people acknowledge that there can never be any evidence. The question then remains, if you’ve accepted that there is absolutely no evidence in existence to support your faith, why do you still blindly follow?