What would a court record of Jesus’s execution prove, beyond that someone called Jesus, believed by his followers to be the son of God, was executed? We already know that his followers believed him to be the son of God. A court record of the execution would confirm that he existed, but not the existence of a god for him to be the son of. So no, that wouldnâ€™t do it.
Again, a new contemporary source referring to Jesus would only support his existence, not his identity nor the existence of a god. So that wouldn’t do it either.
Same goes for a document written by Jesus himself, EVEN IF it could ever be shown to be genuinely by him, which it almost certainly couldn’t.
As for your other examples. Proof that we were created, for instance. Well, for starters, what might such proof possibly look like? It is certainly conceivable that we would find something that would challenge our current understanding, but how would that prove a creator rather than simply flag up another question to which we don’t currently have an answer? The lack of an answer for something doesn’t have to mean that Goddidit!
In any case, even if there WERE something that pointed incontrovertibly towards a creator, why should that mean it was a god who did the creating? Why couldn’t it be a super-intelligent alien civilisation that did it? For the record, I am not for one moment suggesting the existence of a super-intelligent alien civilisation, merely pointing out that God is not the default explanation!
God speaking to me personally? Well, we already know that the brain is very suggestible and that it can create very powerful illusions, even when not under the influence of drugs. So no, that wouldn’t be reliable evidence either. Besides, who’s to say that, if there WERE a real voice, it would have to be a god and not that super-intelligent alien again?
What might be evidence? Well, if prayer were consistently shown to work, that would get me thinking. Especially if, say, Christian prayers were always answered but Islamic/Hindu/Jain prayers were not. (Though even so, it could still just be a super-intelligent alien civilisation having some fun at our expense.) In reality, every properly conducted study has shown that prayer does NOT work – there is no correlation between prayer and outcomes.
Perhaps if this supposed God were to tell us something that we did not already know and which we could then test for ourselves and see that it was true: a cure for some currently totally incurable disease, for instance. (Carl Sagan wrote amusingly of the way alleged messages from God or aliens are invariably of the banal variety: â€˜Be kind to one anotherâ€™, â€˜War is badâ€™; and never anything IMPRESSIVE, such as how to cure cancer or a comprehensible explanation of quantum mechanics or proof of Goedelâ€™s Theorem.) But this, too, would only be evidence of a superior intelligence, and it could just as easily be those super-intelligent aliens again.
Actually, that isn’t true. It would be FAR MORE LIKELY to be super-intelligent aliens than God. Why? Because we know of natural processes by which intelligence forms on Earth (i.e. as a result of evolution by natural selection), and it therefore wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that something either identical or very similar to evolution by natural selection had been at work on another planet in this vast universe, and had been so for longer than here on Earth and had therefore resulted in super-intelligence that might appear truly god-like to us inferior beings. It would still have been an entirely natural process.
But there is NO mechanism we know of which could possibly give rise to a god. The Christian claim that God was simply always there just won’t wash: there’s no reason to believe it, it’s simply special pleading, dreamed up, invented, imagined, as a way of trying to prevent the rest of the story simply falling apart. It has nothing whatsoever to support it beyond the wishful thinking of those who want to believe the rest of the story.
So I find it impossible to imagine what proof there might be for God, because it would always be possible to imagine a far more plausible naturalistic explanation (and, for the reason given above, even the most outlandish naturalistic explanation will always be more plausible than an uncreated god).
I canâ€™t prove that there isn’t a god either, of course; but there is absolutely no good reason to believe in one, and thatâ€™s why I donâ€™t. I don’t believe in a super-intelligent alien civilisation either, by the way: it’s just a less preposterous hypothesis than an uncreated god.
Posted: May 24th 2009
See all questions answered by Paula Kirby