The other day I was wandering around my local Borders store, and ran across a book on the New Releases table entitled, God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist by Victor J. Stenger, a man who seems to have taken on a crusade against the notion that science is proving (or has proved) the existence of God, particularly the Christian version of God.
Now, straight off I need to say that I haven’t had a chance to read this book, even though I am going to comment on its concept taken from its own promotional blurbs, which I presume to be accurate. (I should also state that instead of this book, I chose Bruce Feiler’s “Where God Was Born.”) I’d actually like to read this book, but I don’t have the time or money to invest in it right now. However, if someone feels inclined to buy it for me, I promise I’ll read it the first chance I get. (The same goes for Dawkins The God Delusion or even Sam Harris’ stuff.)
The publisher’s blurb for the book states:
Physicist Victor J. Stenger contends that, if God exists, some evidence for this existence should be detectable by scientific means, especially considering the central role that God is alleged to play in the operation of the universe and the lives of humans. … After evaluating all the scientific evidence, Stenger concludes that beyond a reasonable doubt the universe and life appear exactly as we might expect if there were no God.
Assuming, as I said, that this is an accurate representation of Stenger’s hypothesis, then one really doesn’t have to read the book to discover its primary error; it would seem, rather than disproving the hypothesis that science can offer proof of God’s existence, he has only proved that his own hypothesis, that science can prove the opposite, has failed. It would seem that in taking on such a task, Stenger has come to a Gödellian impasse. One of Stenger’s problems can be seen at the outset: what if his hypothesis that evidence for God can be detectable by scientific means is either not true, or is unprovable? His conclusion, then, can only be trusted if you accept the same set of presuppositions as Stenger bases his argument on; in which case you have no proof of anything at all.
It remains to be seen whether Stenger’s argument is consistent (I would actually have to read the book to comment on this). Even so, it only proves a consistent system, not that it accurately represents truth. Again, if the presuppositions are incorrect, all you have is a consistent work of fiction.
Stenger is seems to be taking on a de facto exercise in fallacious reasoning when he is attempting to address the truth of one system (that is, theology) from within his own system. Brian Bosse, in his discussion on The Nature of Argumentation (Part 3), states:
I can’t stress enough the importance of arguing independently of your system for your system. Most arguments between systems are not made independently of the system. That is, most arguments assume their system upfront, and commit this most basic fallacy.
Now, Stenger may have some points to make with regard to others who attempt to disprove science from within a theological framework, or who put forth inconsistent arguments for the existence of God; I have just as much of a problem with bad Christian logic as I do with bad scientific logic.
However, there is one other consideration: What if everything we see as science – even (gasp!) evolution – is the work of God? Assuming that God is outside of the system He created, He would not be subject to the cause and effect nature of creation, and so therefore not provable from within the system. However, this could provide the basis for all those others – such as Francis S. Collins, who wrote The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief – who look at the same facts, but see God displayed there.