This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

What would it take?

I was asked recently by a believer "well you seem to just ignore all the evidence you don't like, what would it take to convince you that God's real?". Obviously there was a conflict between our definitions of "evidence" and I could very easily (and more justifiably, I think) have turned the question around and demanded to know what it would take for him acknowledge that there are no gods, but it got me thinking. What would it take to make you believe in a god?

The classic example is a voice from the sky, but this doesn't work because my options if this happened would be: 1: Conclude that the laws of physics had been temporarily broken for my benefit. 2: Conclude that someone was playing an elaborate prank. 3: Conclude that I'd hallucinated or just gone nuts. ... frankly, I don't think I'd have the ego to go with the former.

So what if lots of people heard the voice and agreed about what it said? Same problem; you could either declare that the known laws of the universe have been temporarily put on hold, or accept that - however intuitively strange the details might be - "improbable" beats "impossible" every time, which opens up options like mass hysteria, group hallucination, an even more elaborate prank... hell, even a prank by an advanced life-form from another planet is theoretically possible!

What if physicists managed to get back beyond the Big Bang, and discovered that the only workable mathematical model was some sort of creative intelligence? I suspect I'd find myself - for the first time in my life - trying to tell physicists that I know better than they do, that their maths must be wrong. I admit that it would take a lot of failed attempts to disprove the hypothesis before I would be convinced... I don't know, does that make me narrow-minded, perhaps? After all, I criticise IDiots every day for refusing to go where aaalllll the evidence points them.

Even the "mathematical model of intelligence behind the Big Bang" idea, though, would not inherently convey any notions of said intelligence's nature, personality or opinions (I suppose that would become the next Big Question for science), and I would still argue that calling it "God" was both premature and essentially meaningless with the limited information available. I have to say - I think I could get around to a vague sort of "we are not alone" non-specific deism if the evidence pointed us that way... but I suspect it simply may not be in me to believe in any personal kind of god.

What does everyone think?



Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment