An Old Question for Theists

What evidence, if found, would falsify your god hypothesis? What would it take to prove yourself wrong?

It’s a simple question I’ve had to ask a theist because like so many others, he doesn’t seem to understand what we mean by “falsifiable.” A hypothesis has to be able to generate predictions, either of events that will happen in a controlled experiment, or of evidence that will be discovered when we examine the world.

When you set up an experiment, there has to be an outcome that can be seen as a failure. If you’re predicting the future discovery of a piece of evidence, it has to match characteristics you specify. If that evidence is absent despite the efforts to search for it, you need a very good reason why it hasn’t been found if you still want to be taken seriously. Hypotheses also have to be able to predict things that won’t be found.

That last part is important for reasons many people don’t realize. If a detective hypothesizes that Beatrice killed Arnold with his revolver, that means his hypothesis predicts the analysis of the fatal bullet will determine that it was fired by Bob’s revolver. It also implicitly predicts that the analysis will not determine that it was fired from a different gun. If the analysis determines that it was fired from a semi-automatic found in Charlie’s house, it falsifies the detective’s original hypothesis.

Many god hypotheses I know of are unfalsifiable or effectively made unfalsifiable by ad hoc hypothesizing, that is modifying a hypothesis with a special exception for one case, but not consistently or sometimes using it in a contradictory manner. Intelligent Design typically does a lot of ad hocking, in my experience, positing a supremely intelligent being who is capable of obviously poor design decisions. Other gods often go the trickster route, claiming that any evidence that contradicts the hypothesis is a deception deliberately manufactured to confound the skeptics, thus making the hypothesis immune to evidence, rather than based on evidence.


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