A Dream I Had and the Null Hypothesis

Last night, I dreamed I was having an argument with a theist about the existence of his god. I don’t remember much detail, but it came to the point that, unusual for a verbal debate, he started to suggest we write down our collective arguments. The point that angered me was that he asked me to list all the scientific evidence for atheism. He was missing a central point, so I ended up holding his face, which suddenly resembled a cross between a witch doctor’s mask and the face of a classic Cyberman, looked him in the empty eyes intently, and said, “I don’t base my argument on the evidence, I base it on the lack of evidence.”

That’s one of the ideas I really wish I could drill in their heads. If they don’t back up their assertion of an entity’s existence with good evidence, why should I have to do anything beyond pointing out that void? The burden of proof is theirs to overcome.

A trope comes to mind: The Complainer Is Always Wrong, applied to epistemology. They often act as if the unpopular idea has the burden of proof by default. Or they assume it’s the adversary’s job to do their work for them. The reality, as far as I can see, is that there is no justifiable reason to be a theist, and if someone wants to argue otherwise, they have to provide a justification. Atheism is a null hypothesis, and science works by assuming the null hypothesis until that hypothesis is falsified. That’s what Occam’s Razor is about, in a way. Don’t assume the existence of new entities until they’re shown to be necessary. The null hypothesis generally fails if there is an entity that isn’t accounted for, producing results it doesn’t predict.

All I’m asking for is a god hypothesis that makes true predictions that atheism and known science doesn’t.

One response to “A Dream I Had and the Null Hypothesis

  1. The one that gets me the most is “I used to be a non-believer, but then I realized I just didn’t have enough [smug pause] faith to be an atheist.”

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