Magazine article Free Inquiry

Response to Bobby Treat

Magazine article Free Inquiry

Response to Bobby Treat

Article excerpt

I thank Mr. Treat for his thoughtful comments and welcome the opportunity to clarify my views.

My claim with regard to the maxim "You can't prove a universal negative" was not "If it can't be proven, it must be false," but "If it can't be proven, it's logically possible that it's false," which, far from being a logical blunder, is a logical truism. I then tried to show that not only is it logically possible to prove a universal negative, but that it actually has been done.

Mr. Treat believes that the God hypothesis is simple, wide-ranging and conservative but not fruitful because it doesn't generate any testable predictions. I believe that he is wrong on all counts, even with regard to his analysis of fruitfulness, but let's focus on simplicity and fruitfulness. The notion of simplicity relevant to theory choice is that expressed by Occam's razor: Do not multiply entities beyond necessity. The God hypothesis is, on the face of it, less simple than a naturalistic hypothesis because it postulates at least one additional entity, namely God. If the phenomena that God was invoked to explain can be explained without invoking Him, then there is no logical reason to believe that He exists. And if there is no logical reason to believe that He exists, then it is beyond a reasonable doubt that He does not exist.

We need to recognize, I argued, that there are two types of proof: logical and scientific. A logical proof establishes its conclusion beyond any possibility of doubt while a scientific proof establishes its conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt. …

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