Wow, what fun!
Over at the Facebook page for Atheism Ireland, Brian Cullen asked a deceptively simple question; “What would be acceptable evidence for there being a God”.
This started a long discussion, and I think I might be the main protagonist in it… A load of examples of evidence were mentioned, but each of them had problems; in that they could possibly be explained by chance, hallucination, or an incomplete understanding of physical law.
I think the largest problem was that the question did not include a very important definition: What is a god?
When asked, Brian elucidated: “God , in it’s basic form as we would think of when the word is mentioned .”
But the problem there is that everyone has a different picture in their heads of what that means. Many people think of a god as a Santa Claus-like figure dressed in white instead of red, and go no further than that.
I would define a “God” (in the context of this question) as:
- an intelligent being
- that created itself from nothing
- then created the universe
- and can do almost anything that it wants.
I think most people would agree with that definition.
It is easy to think of examples of evidence that would prove points 1 and 4.
A very good example was a being which writes a book that can unambiguously be read and understood by every person that reads the book. This shows that the being is intelligent enough to write legibly, and is able to achieve something which is probably impossible.
However, this does not prove points 2 and 3, that the being created itself, and created the universe.
In fact, no matter how awesome the miracle you envisage, not one single shred of evidence can possibly prove that the being created itself and also created the universe.
Even the being taking you back through time to witness its own creation and the creation of the universe is not proof, because any being that can do that can surely also simply slip you a hallucinogenic drug and convince you that you’ve seen the described events…
It was suggested that demonstrating miracles might be evidence. For example, moving the stars to form a word, or bringing a person back to life after a week of decay.
Each of those are evidence of great power, but they do not address the identity of the being.
Not one piece of evidence in the whole thread (which went on for /ages/) was anything that could point towards the being creating itself or creating the universe.
In fact, when we got down to the more extreme demonstrations of power (like signing your name right across the sky in stars), those are actually evidence that you are not living in the real universe, but are in a “matrix” of sorts.
It was suggested that a being outside the laws of the universe can break the laws of physics or manipulate the universal constants.
But, if you can possibly change a universal constant, then it’s not a constant after all. And if you can break a law of physics, then it is not a law. If either of these happened, they would actually be evidence that we do not know all the /real/ laws and constants in physics. They would not be proof that something can somehow break laws and constants at whim.