RevLogos

Jan 17th 2008, 04:54 PM

Atheists and the scientific types are constantly demanding that we prove the existence of God (or Jesus, or the accuracy of the Bible). Is this right? Where is the burden of proof?

We can look at methods of proving a hypothesis in a legal, statistical or scientific way. All are essentially the same. There is a relationship with the methods used in a court of law, and the methods used in investigative science. So I will start with a legal example.

In a court of law in Western countries we assume a person is “innocent until proven guilty”. This means we have a hypothesis that the person is innocent. Then we create the Null Hypothesis which is the person is NOT innocent (guilty). The Alternate Hypothesis is that the person is innocent.

We prove or disprove the Null Hypothesis, in law as in science and statistics. In a court of law, notice that a person is pronounced either guilty, or not guilty. No defendant is ever pronounced innocent. Why? Innocence cannot usually be proven, but guilt can. Evidence of guilt is established, not evidence of innocence. We accept or reject the null hypothesis (guilt).

Likewise in science, we have a Hypothesis but we use evidence to either accept, or reject the Null Hypothesis; we do not prove the Hypothesis. Let’s take SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) as an example. The Hypothesis is that intelligent alien life exists. The Null Hypothesis is that alien intelligence does not exist. SETI searches for radio transmissions. If they find enough they cannot explain naturally, they will reject the null hypothesis that alien intelligence does not exist. This cannot actually prove that alien intelligence does exist, only that it is probable without reasonable doubt. We cannot actually prove they exist until we meet them. ;)

Likewise with the existence of God. The Hypothesis is that God exists. The Null Hypothesis is that God does not exist. We either accept or reject the Null Hypothesis. Therefore the burden of proof is on the atheist, and the theist, to show evidence sufficient only to reject the Null Hypothesis. This means one does not scientifically prove God exists. One provides enough evidence to doubt that God does not exist.

Atheists are constantly demanding the theists prove that God exists. We can show now that this is not necessary by either a legal or scientific standard. One cannot prove God exists. We can at best, reject the Null Hypothesis, that God does not exist.

Likewise with the historical accuracy of the Bible. The null hypothesis is that the Bible is not accurate. I reject the null hypothesis by establishing some proof that it is indeed accurate. This has been done time and time again by the veracity and consistency of both Biblical and non-Biblical ancient texts and by archaeological evidence. Therefore I can reject the null hypothesis (the Bible is not accurate) but I cannot prove the Alternate Hypothesis. This requires faith.

The atheist then has to fall back to the Hume Argument that no amount of evidence is credible because we know a priori God does not exist.

I hope this is helpful on your battles with the atheists.

We can look at methods of proving a hypothesis in a legal, statistical or scientific way. All are essentially the same. There is a relationship with the methods used in a court of law, and the methods used in investigative science. So I will start with a legal example.

In a court of law in Western countries we assume a person is “innocent until proven guilty”. This means we have a hypothesis that the person is innocent. Then we create the Null Hypothesis which is the person is NOT innocent (guilty). The Alternate Hypothesis is that the person is innocent.

We prove or disprove the Null Hypothesis, in law as in science and statistics. In a court of law, notice that a person is pronounced either guilty, or not guilty. No defendant is ever pronounced innocent. Why? Innocence cannot usually be proven, but guilt can. Evidence of guilt is established, not evidence of innocence. We accept or reject the null hypothesis (guilt).

Likewise in science, we have a Hypothesis but we use evidence to either accept, or reject the Null Hypothesis; we do not prove the Hypothesis. Let’s take SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) as an example. The Hypothesis is that intelligent alien life exists. The Null Hypothesis is that alien intelligence does not exist. SETI searches for radio transmissions. If they find enough they cannot explain naturally, they will reject the null hypothesis that alien intelligence does not exist. This cannot actually prove that alien intelligence does exist, only that it is probable without reasonable doubt. We cannot actually prove they exist until we meet them. ;)

Likewise with the existence of God. The Hypothesis is that God exists. The Null Hypothesis is that God does not exist. We either accept or reject the Null Hypothesis. Therefore the burden of proof is on the atheist, and the theist, to show evidence sufficient only to reject the Null Hypothesis. This means one does not scientifically prove God exists. One provides enough evidence to doubt that God does not exist.

Atheists are constantly demanding the theists prove that God exists. We can show now that this is not necessary by either a legal or scientific standard. One cannot prove God exists. We can at best, reject the Null Hypothesis, that God does not exist.

Likewise with the historical accuracy of the Bible. The null hypothesis is that the Bible is not accurate. I reject the null hypothesis by establishing some proof that it is indeed accurate. This has been done time and time again by the veracity and consistency of both Biblical and non-Biblical ancient texts and by archaeological evidence. Therefore I can reject the null hypothesis (the Bible is not accurate) but I cannot prove the Alternate Hypothesis. This requires faith.

The atheist then has to fall back to the Hume Argument that no amount of evidence is credible because we know a priori God does not exist.

I hope this is helpful on your battles with the atheists.