Thursday, February 7, 2013

Unfalsifiable Claims

The late Christopher Hitchens was always entertaining to listen to (and to read). During his many debates with theists his critique of Christianity's negative social effects was superb. But one point he made about how theists react to scientific progress strikes me as more important than ever in light of how many theists are finally starting to embrace evolution in large numbers.

Most Christians not too long ago outright rejected Darwinian evolution on the grounds that it was incompatible with the Bible's telling of the history of life and man. They felt evolution degraded mankind as well as god. But now, after 150 years of evolution since the Origin Of The Species, after the evidence keeps building up and is undeniable, more and more theists are coming to the conclusion that evolution is true. And the position they're taking after this, is that evolution actually proves how much more amazing god is for creating such an intricate and highly complex process that brought about the various species of life, including man. Many Christians are also now saying that these natural explanations are designed by god to test our faith. So after denying evolution and the big bang for decades, suddenly they're both adopted as truth and now are being used to make the case for god.

Hitchens argued that to retroactively assimilate new scientific discoveries that were previously denied so that scripture is reinforced to make perfect sense befitting the new information, is to argue an unfalsifiable claim. How do you falsify something that "evolves" so to speak, to adapt to unfavorable conditions? Perhaps the answer is that religions like Christianity are unfalsifiable. In my mind, unless Jesus' bones are discovered, I think we'll just continue to see camps within Christianity adapt with the strategy that each new piece of data that removes the need for god's intervention is actually designed by god to test our faith in him. But they'd probably just claim that was another test of faith by god.

I suppose the ultimate unfalsifiable claim will come with the cosmological argument. But if it ever becomes provable that a universe can pop into being uncaused from nothing, theists will simply assert that it's all another test from god to demonstrate our faith in him. If someone wants to cling to a god because they feel it gives their life purpose, meaning and direction, I'm fine with that. The only place I draw the line is when belief in god violates secularism and causes stupid wars, ignorance and hatred.

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