Sunday, May 27, 2007

God is not a Scientific Hypothesis

Victor Stenger, well known to connoisseurs of the sharper end of atheism, has a new book out called God: The Failed Hypothesis. No, I’m not going to read it. I have as much desire to read Dawkins’s imitators as I do Dan Brown’s. Besides, even the title shows us that Stenger has made a category mistake.

One of the hallmarks of scientism is the belief that if something isn’t amenable to scientific analysis, it is either meaningless or doesn’t exist. Hence Stenger’s attempts to disprove God by analysing him as a scientific hypothesis. If this argument was valid, you could show that the Mona Lisa doesn’t exist because a woman is nowhere present in the paint molecules laid down by Leonardo. Dawkins, of course, made the same category mistake with his attempt to show that as God is not a material super-being subject to the laws of chance, he almost certainly doesn’t exist.

Now, I hope that no one who reads this blog would accuse me of being anti-science or unwilling to accept scientific discoveries if they are unpalatable. But, I cannot see how, sixty odd years after logical positivism was discredited, intelligent people like Stenger and Dawkins can still be caught in its web. Scientism is so twentieth century.

Thus, Stenger’s book looks like a typical case of choosing the question in order to not get an answer. If it does contain a single original or interesting thought, then please let me know. It would be wonderful to find a new argument after all these years.

However, as glutton for punishment, I will be reading Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell when I get the chance. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea was extremely good and I will defy the poor reviews of his latest book to find out if it contains the same blessed examples of genius and wilful blindness on the same page.

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1 comment:

IlĂ­on said...

"Scientism is so twentieth century."

I'd have said: "Scientism is so early twentieth century." Gives it a bit more of its own bite.