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“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?

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“Aliens can’t exist because we haven’t found them yet”. I never really believed that people were stupid enough to base an entire “logical” thought process on this “evidence” but apparently many people do. Well, here’s a pretty famous quote (paraphrased) that’s been used to refute this poorly thought out argument against extraterrestrial life:

It’s like taking a scoop out of the ocean with a cup and saying there are no such things as whales because there are none in my cup.

Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Humans have been leaking radio waves for 70 years now so our radio bubble is approximately 70 light years. Our galaxy has a diameter of around 110,000 light years. There are around 170 billion galaxies in the universe.

The top three elements in the human body are oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. The most abundant elements in the universe are hydrogen, helium, oxygen, neon, nitrogen and carbon. And that is assuming that alien life must be identical to human life, which is highly unlikely.

But wait, what about the Goldilocks zone? Well, I’ve heard this term tossed around quite a lot and it always ends up being misconstrued somehow. The “Goldilocks” loosely describes inhabitable planets/regions. The Goldilocks zone specifically denotes a distance from a star that is the perfect distance for liquid water to exist on a planet (not too far to be frozen and not too close to be evaporated). In our solar system, Earth and Mars are the only two planets within this zone.

What’s the significance? Well as far as we know, water is really the only thing necessary for life to exist. There are bacteria that can survive in 400,000 times our gravity, in ridiculously high and low temperatures, and can feed of poisonous elements like sulfur. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s life out there that doesn’t need water.

When they (Deguchi et. al.) spun E. coli up to the equivalent of 7,500 G’s (7,500 times the force of Earth gravity), however, they found that the microbe didn’t miss a beat. It grew and reproduced just fine.

But wait, let’s just assume water is a necessity. The Goldilocks zone isn’t even exclusive as the only place with liquid water. For example, it’s been theorised that Europa (the ice moon of Jupiter) could be hiding a vast ocean under its icy crust. How? The moon is outside the Goldilocks zone but its orbit around Jupiter is elliptical. This means that the gravitational pull on the moon is uneven. Essentially, it is being constantly contracted and expanded. This gives it the potential to heat up the ice at its core enough to form water. There could be an alien species living in that ocean, oblivious to the rest of the universe as it is unable to penetrate the icy shell of Europa.

There’s more. Let’s limit our search even further and only look at Goldilocks candidates. Those of you that have kept an eye on the news might recall a few Goldilocks planets being found. Here’s a fun picture showing their similarities to Earth:

Goldilocks Planets

 

If you think that’s impressive, wait ’til you hear this. The Kepler telescope and the NASA team behind it predict as many as 500 million planets in our galaxy fall into the habitable zone. And yes, that’s just our one, lonesome galaxy.

And the truth is, life is not as elusive as it’s often made out to be. If you remember my post on Panspermia you’ll recall that bacteria and amino acids are commonly found in the tails of comets.

Now I did mention the Curiosity rover, but in all honesty, there’s not much I can say right now. For those of you that missed it, Curiosity found evidence of organic compounds on Mars, including water. However, there’s still a possibility the data was contaminated by Earth compounds, so I’ll refrain from drawing any conclusions (as the NASA team hasn’t drawn any conclusions yet either). All I can say is that I look forward to great findings over the entire expedition by Curiosity, just as many in the science world are. And I wouldn’t be surprised by any positive results.

But I want to leave you all with something mind-boggling to think about. I’ll try my best, though the more informed of you may scoff.

You may be asking: Why haven’t we seen any signs of aliens? or Why haven’t any aliens contacted us? Well, think about the vastness of the universe. We aren’t even capable of staying in contact with any probes to leave our solar system, and those few probes presumably to have left our solar system haven taken almost half a century to get that far. Our technology is so limited that contacting alien life would be close to impossible. In fact, if you consider that our galaxy is 110,000 light years in diameter, you’ll quickly realise our limitations. If you abide by classic physics and take light speed as the maximum possible speed (and there’s no evidence to the contrary right now), that means that even the most infinitely advanced alien life would still take 110,000 years to cross our galaxy. It could be that life in the universe is not destined to ever meet, and that light speed is the great limiter placed on the entire universe. At the very least, NASA recognises a problem in fuel based propulsions – something I’ll do a post about later. Basically, we have no possible technology that could ever be sufficient to let us explore into our own galaxy, let alone the rest of the universe.

And finally, a thought inspired by another Neil deGrasse Tyson quote, as well as predictions by Stephen Hawking. Most likely, we are either infinitely more advanced than alien life and overlook its existence or do not recognise it as life (such as bacteria), or we are infinitely inferior to alien life, so they see us as nothing more than insects and ignore us. After all, when was the last time you stopped and had a conversation with a worm?

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