You can’t prove god doesn’t exist!

Here’s another oldie, but a goodie from the apologist playbook: “(I may not have any evidence for my outlandish claims but…) You can’t prove god doesn’t exist!”

Let’s begin with the obvious.  You cannot prove a negative because there will always be gaps in our knowledge, so we must always allow the distant possibility that even unlikely things like leprechauns and gods will turn up (it should be noted that conceding the small possibility of something is not the same as accepting the plausibility of it).  What we can say with as much certainty as humanly possible is that any person who, up to this point, has claimed to possess evidence that a god exists has done so in error (if you think you have a good reason, throw it out there).  Moreover, if you believe in god just because we haven’t combed our universe to the very edge to make sure there’s no place god might be hiding, thus ‘disproving’ his existence, then it’s curious why you don’t believe in unicorns (maybe we’re looking in the wrong forests), leprechauns (we haven’t been to the end of every rainbow), and purple-shelled insects with candy apple horns, since we can’t/haven’t disproven those things either.

“The evidence doesn’t disprove god”

What would that evidence look like?  I mean, if something doesn’t exist, what more evidence could we have than the lack of any evidence?  The evidence also doesn’t actively disprove the existence of smurfs.  Does it really take more ‘faith’ to believe smurfs don’t exist?  After all, what more evidence do you have that smurfs don’t exist than you do that god doesn’t exist?

Furthermore, what does this scenario tell us about god?  If a god exists who elected to use only natural means to create a universe and then chose to mask any evidence of his existence so it looks like a purely natural cosmos, it can only be concluded that such a god does not want us to believe.  Additionally, that he would use a means to produce humans/biological order like evolution, which requires millions of years of a sick rewards system in which animals must often kill each other to survive, and in which the weak often die painfully, suggests a god indifferent to suffering (since a malicious god would start us in hell and a benevolent god would conceive a more compassionate system).  An indifferent god is hard (I’d say impossible) to discern from a pitiless universe that functions through unfeeling forces, and nothing more.  There are plenty more problems like this, and they all point to a god that virtually no human being believes in, and for which a godless universe is a better explanation.

But apart from simply pointing out that no evidence whatsoever exists to suggest a god was at work anywhere, we have plenty of evidence to support the conclusion that the universe is without god.

Evidence supports a godless universe

For one, the universe produces order all by itself via mindless forces acting on inanimate objects.  So you cannot simply point to an instance of order and say, “There is complexity, hence it must have been designed!”  What’s more, thus far whenever humankind has explained a phenomenon, it has been shown to be the result of natural forces with no appeal to god being necessary.  All of them.  Now imagine you’ve watched two horses race hundreds of thousands of times, and every time the same horse wins.  They’re getting ready to run another race and you have to bet your life savings on one of them.  Which horse do you pick?  Do you need “just as much faith” to pick that horse?  Yes, we have other unknowns out there, but to say that it takes just as much faith for me to assume that we will continue to find natural explanations rather than supernatural explanations is simply wrong.

Second, life is very difficult to get started via natural means (go here and read the section “abiogenesis”).  A godless universe therefore predicts that we would find ourselves in a very large, very old universe, so that things that have a very low probability of occurring would become probable.  That is exactly where we find ourselves.

Third, the flaws in design don’t make any sense if a god created anything, since such a god would necessarily be more crafty than humans.  If that were the case, it’s incredibly odd that we could pick up mistakes that such a god would miss.  These are things like the existence of the appendix, babies’ heads being bigger than the birth canal, and the clunky nature of DNA.

Fourth, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that our universe had a beginning, and the existence of a god before there was any time or place to think is illogical.  Moreover, it is up to the theist to explain how a bodiless mind could both exist and accomplish anything.  So far as we know, minds only exist as machinery powered by tissues constructed of cells which, themselves, are made up of elements that took time to create within stars via r and s processes, which means that a mind could not exist before stars.  Also, if thought does not require a functional brain, why do we have them?

Fifth, as I said in the first part of this response, the existence of suffering is incompatible with an all-powerful being.  An evil god would have us suffer more, and a benevolent god would not allow suffering to continue.  That life is based on a system that requires millions of years of agony spread over millions of species of animals is inexplicable via the god hypothesis.

Sixth, if god existed there would not be so much confusion among the world as to which God existed or what he wants from us.  Often people say they have experienced god and that’s how they know one exists.  But god would not be giving everyone contradictory messages and experiences of the divine, nor would a god allow this confusion, since compassion would compel him to give us the best chance of being saved, not the worst.

Seventh, the universe is indescribably vast.  It is so large than the human brain cannot comprehend it without invoking logarithmic functions.  To give you some perspective, a particle of light will travel around the entire Earth seven and a half times in one second.  It would take that same particle 5.3 hours to reach Pluto, and four years to reach the closest star, and there are roughly 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and there are trillions of galaxies.  That same particle would take 93 billion years to go from one end of this universe to the other.  As I pointed out earlier, such a universe is precisely what we would expect to find if life arose from natural causation.  It makes absolutely no sense that such a universe was created for something so mind-numbingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things as humans.

There are many, many more, but you get the picture.  Any evidence to support a godless universe is evidence against god’s existence.  I will go further to assert that no evidence whatsoever exists to support the conclusion that god exists.  This makes a godless universe (far) more likely, and makes it difficult to contrive a more inaccurate statement than, “It takes just as much  faith to believe in a God or to believe there is no higher power.”

Outro

When pressed to explain why you believe the things you do, you should be ready to go to bat with all of the evidence at your disposal.  The onus for your beliefs is purely on you.

  • Ariel

    A fellow atheist in one of my other forums pointed out something very interesting as far as proof. Reality is its own proof. We can sit together and watch a sunset, and our experience will be virtually the same. We will both see the reds, oranges, and shading of the clouds and the sun disappearing at the same time. We can look at the night sky and, as long as we are both in the same hemisphere, we will always see the North star and Orion’s belt in the same place every time. You won’t be able to point to the eastern sky and say “Look, it’s over THERE tonight!” Because it won’t be.

    The experience of god is nothing like reality. A christian can describe an experience with god that they totally believe happened. Their favorite phrase is “I just KNOW it.” But unlike the lovely sunset or the sky full of stars, they are unable to share their feelings from that experience with us. We may believe that they have sincerely experienced those feelings, but we cannot share them together. Is there anything that proves that god is a creation of the human mind more completely than the fact that, even if I am sitting beside them in the same church at the same time, I will not have the same experience? Nothing in the universe–nothing in the cosmos–needs any supernatural explanation. Nature is amazing enough to have done it all on its own. Thanks for this post. Thanks for the ammo.