God: a failed hypothesis or something more?

(Juan Romero) #1

So, after reading some of Victor Stenger’s articles (like Testing the God Hypothesis), I decided to give his book, God: The Failed Hypothesis - How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, a try.

From what I’ve heard, he defeated WLC in a debate a decade ago and he was VERY anti-Christian. Although he was a good physicist, I think he was a horrible philosopher.

Before reading the book, do you think God is just a “failed hypothesis” like Stenger said, or is He something else?

Oh, and a friend gave me a couple of books which contain solid refutations of Stenger’s arguments (especially those against the Fine Tuning of the Universe), but I would like to know about some other books concerning the “God Hypothesis”.

(John Dalton) #2

Jerry Coyne says something similar in the preface of Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible.

The most novel aspect of “New Atheism”—the form of disbelief that distinguishes the views of writers like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins from the “old” atheism of people like Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell—is the observation that most religions are grounded in claims that can be regarded as scientific. That is, God, and the tenets of many religions, are hypotheses that can, at least in principle, be examined by science and reason. If religious claims can’t be substantiated with reliable evidence, the argument goes, they should, like dubious scientific claims, be rejected until more data arrive. This argument is buttressed by new developments in science, in areas like cosmology, neurobiology, and evolutionary biology. Discoveries in those fields have undermined religious claims that phenomena like the origin of the universe and the existence of human morality and consciousness defy scientific explanation and are therefore evidence for God.

Haven’t read Stengar’s book, but it sounds in the same vein as Coyne’s. You might appreciate it if you’re interested in reading other similar material.

(Juan Romero) #3

Thanks. Although I hate Coyne for his constant attacks on those who don’t think like him, I’ll check him out.

Do you have any book that gives a “thumbs up” to the “God Hypothesis” unlike Stenger and Coyne?

(John Dalton) #4

No. I guess the ID people are the closest to attempting to scientifically prove such a hypothesis? It seems to me the much more typical (and stronger) counter-argument is that the existence of God is simply not something which can be scientifically proven or disproven. There are various logical arguments that are made to attempt to prove God’s existence (which after reading a number of your posts I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with).

(Juan Romero) #5

Yeah, but I think Stenger was a bad philosopher because he was not able to understand that God is not like any other hypothesis.

First, God is a supernatural entity, and Stenger’s approach was from a more naturalistic point of view, something that gives you an idea of what his conclusion would be.

What’s actually funny is that Victor thought that Fine Tuning=Design. In his responses to Stenger and in his book (one of the many books my friend gave me), Luke Barnes explains that this is not true.

(John Dalton) #6

That seems to be the basic conundrum!

Any particular one?


Because science is about finding natural explanations for natural phenomena, there is nothing it can say about the existence of God.

(Juan Romero) #8

This is the book. Barnes’ responses to Stenger can be found on his website.

(Juan Romero) #9

I know, but Vic didn’t understand that, so that’s the main reason I say he was a bad philosopher.

I’ll leave you with one of his articles about the subject:

(Stephen Matheson) #10

It seems (to me) that there are two different concepts of “god hypothesis” in this conversation. One is the hypothesis that there is a god. I think one can argue that this hypothesis is vacuous, or discredited, or hopelessly vague, but ultimately it probably isn’t a “failed hypothesis” in the sense that it has not been disproven. (Because it can’t be disproven.)

The second concept is the one that (I think) Stenger and Coyne and others have in mind: god as an answer to a question. In this case, “god” is the hypothesis advanced to explain something. Here, I think “god” had failed repeatedly and spectacularly, because this “god hypothesis” cannot escape evidence-based scrutiny (by virtue of being an “answer” to a question about material reality). This kind of “god hypothesis” is a godsend (heh) to atheist apologists like Coyne and Stenger, and is considered by many Christians I know to be inconsistent with historical Christian theism.

(Juan Romero) #11

That is definitely not what Vic says in the cover of his book.

Here you have Stenger’s article on that one:

(Stephen Matheson) #12

My post wasn’t about that.

(Stephen Matheson) #13

By the way, have you read the book? I haven’t, but I have read brief summaries of it. And from those summaries I know that Stenger did not argue that “god” has been “disproven.” Do you think that is important to note here? I do.

(John Dalton) #14

But the full title of the book is “God: The Failed Hypothesis; How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist”.

(Stephen Matheson) #15

Yeah, but he’s not dumb enough to claim that he’s done that. It seems the book is “testing” the “god hypothesis” by asking whether it makes accurate predictions (prayers get answered, miracles happen, etc.) and/or provides useful description of reality. In that sense, I agree with him that this kind of “god hypothesis” is a failure, but that doesn’t prove anything about existence. I guess it does rule out zillions of derivative conceptions of “god,” but Stenger must have been smart enough to know that “god” can morph around anything.

(Juan Romero) #16

What I meant is that, according to Stenger, science shows that God does not exist.

I know that this hypothesis cannot be disproven.

I just got it. I’ll begin reading it after an exam I have on Tuesday.


So you are in college? What are you studying?

(Juan Romero) #18

Not in college yet. The exam I have to sit for is the FCE.

Here in Uruguay, we have many choices before college in high school. I chose Biology, because it is the subject in which I do better. Plus, I always loved nature. It shows the glory of God.

(John Dalton) #19

Nice. Your reading habits are broader than mine were at that age :slight_smile: You pick up your English just in school down there Juan?

One would think so :slight_smile: I’ll have to add it to my lengthening reading list!

(Juan Romero) #20

Yeah, I have two small libraries: one in my bedroom and one in my phone. The first one is more about novels and other subjects. The one in my phone is full of books about science, theology and philosophy.