Monday, March 28, 2011

The Claim that cannot be disproved

I typically have problems with claims that cannot be disproven. Claims that no amout of evidence, logic, etc can disprove. Take the latest hysteria: global warming/climate change/climate disruption, whatever you wish to call it. While I am not qualified to ascertain if pollution has the catastrophic effects as claimed by gw/cc/cd theory, I remain quite skeptical about a number of claims that are made. This is not to say that I think we should continue to pump out noxious and potentally (actual) harmful pollutants. I can't imagine that I'd want to drink some of such pollutants, so I can't imagine that the plants and wildlife enjoy it either. But what particularly bothers me is the "temperature" evidence that supposedly proves this phenomenon that the Earth's temperature will rise to catastrophic levels. Again, not that it couldn't happen. But when defenders claim that rising temperatures prove the theory as well as lowering temperatures prove the theory, one beings to wonder what we would see if the theory wasn't true. I doubt that this idea has occurred to those who wish to warn us. All temeratures prove the theory, nothing can disprove it. It is perhaps that I misunderstand the presentation, but nonetheless I have yet to see a presentation on what would in fact disprove the theory. I think it is always a healthy exercise to to engage in thought experiments regarding our assumptions about life, the universe and everything. In particular, if one can come up with a way to disprove one's assumptions via logic, evidence, etc. I think this is helpful simply because if you assume something and have no way of disproving it, your mind is now trapped. You are stuck with an assumption that can in no way be disproven, and therefore no way of knowing if what you assumed is true or not. The reason why I bring this up is this post by one of the more thoughtful atheists out on the web. I'm told she is by others who interact with her more frequently and whose opinions I trust more or less, so I will simply defer the question. And again I do not wish to pick on her as I find this thinking among intellectuals and atheists quite often. During a conversation with her boyfriend, she asked him the following:
During one discussion, I pressed him to name something that could serve as a disproof of Catholicism. He named the historicity of Jesus as messiah. If convincing historical evidence emerged that Jesus had never lived or that the Resurrection was a scam, he would be forced to give up his faith.
All well and good. The next part however concerned me:
Then he turned the question on me. What would I accept as proof of Christianity?And I paused. And came up with bupkis.I can imagine evidence that would convince me to believe in the supernatural or, that at the very least, human understanding of the laws of nature was deeply flawed, but that's a long way from being able to believe in a personal God who loves me. I've given it some more thought since then, but, for the most part, I'm still at a loss.
This to me is the problem. The boyfriend complied with the request, and provided an example that would undercut one of the core principals of the Christian Faith. When the question was posed to her she not only could not provide a concrete answer, nothing could actually prove her wrong. God could appear in a full blown song and dance number singing "I Am Who Am, Baby" and that would still not be sufficient. Granted it took Saul to be thrown off his horse and stuck blind to come around, but even this would not sway our atheist interlocutor. A theory that cannot be disproved (in this case the non-existence of God) is usually an indication that your assumptions have backed you into a particularly nasty corner. Far from an unassailable positon a theory that cannot be disproved is a prison, an idea that poisons the mind from being able to correct itself. Rather than freeing the mind it is now trapped in an idea that cannot be dismissed. I would encourage the author of the blog to reevaluate the assumptions that lead to this position. When you come to a dead end in the road, the only route to progress is to turn around and figure out where you made the wrong turn.

1 comment:

JC said...

And now that she's been doing this "Ideological Turing Test" (or Dual Chinese Room) for atheism/Christianity, we see that she is not alone in her inability to think of any evidence which would sway her. She's not the first, though--Asimov said much the same thing (if I recall correctly), and Emile Zola said something similar when he arrived at Lourdes and declared to a collection of news reporters that he was there to disprove miracles--and that he wouldn't believe in them even if he saw one with his own eyes.