Sunday, March 6, 2011

What a Skeptic Requires to Believe in God

An empirical skeptic can be described as someone who does not believe in anything that can be considered superfluous. Given two constructs of equal explanatory power, we are more apt to accept the construct that makes the fewest unnecessary assumptions as the most likely. 
In the case of the question of whether or not there is a divine creator or not, we have two general constructs.
"The universe exists."
"The universe exists and was created by a divine deity."
We can see that the first construct is the simplest, and is thus the default position for any skeptic. Notice, the default position is not, "The universe exists and was not created by a divine deity," but just that the universe exists and the idea of a divine creator is subject to doubt. A person that is skeptical of the existence of God maintains this default position. So, the question is, what is necessary for a skeptic to move past the default position and come closer to accepting the existence of God, or any claim for that matter?
The answer is observations that, when analyzed, demonstrate that the more complex construct has greater explanatory power than the simpler one. These observations analyzed observations are better known as evidence. In order to demonstrate this, the analysis of these observations must be such that it puts the construct through a test, where predictions can be made based upon the construct and observations can demonstrably either lend support or refute it. It's a brute fact of human inquiry that in order to ascertain that an idea may be true, that we can conceive of and possibly observe circumstances that would render the idea false. 
So, in short, what a skeptic requires to move towards belief in God is testable evidence that is far better explained by the existence of God than it could be otherwise. I have yet to hear of any phenomena, including near death experiences, mystical experiences, religious revelations, 'answered' prayers, etc., that are better explained by the existence of God or supernatural forces as opposed to far simpler explanations. In fact, I would argue that most concepts of God are untestable, and thus cannot meet the requirements of belief for a skeptic.

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