Yesterday Anurag Nathyal left this comment on a recent blog post. I'm pleased to take Nathyal up on his challenge. Replies below in bold. At the end of this post I'll also share an excellent rebuttal to what Nathyal said by Appreciative Reader, a regular commenter on this blog.
I have a challenge for the atheists here. You say that we can't prove god is there. I ask you can you prove anything in this world? This may sound absurd at first but think about it.
It's tough for me to respond about "proof" any better than Appreciative Reader said in a reply to your comment, which I've shared below. He's right. In science and everyday life, we don't go about trying to prove things. Basically, we try to explain things. Often this is called "inference to the best explanation."
As Appreciative Reader noted, mathematics has proofs. Science and everyday life don't, at least not in a formal mathematical sense. So atheists don't ask for proof that God exists. We ask for evidence that God exists that pr0vides a persuasive explanation or reason for why, as you put it, God is there.
Science haven't been able to prove consciousness. The very basis of our existence. I bet can you prove anything. Literally anything? By proving I mean there should be no room for doubt. Can you even prove we are not living in a dream or this world is a computer simulation?
Again, science isn't about proof. It is about explanation. Neuroscience has made a lot of progress is understanding consciousness. How much progress have religions made? Zero, essentially. Also, you're mistaken if you believe that science has no room for doubt in its explanations. Every scientific explanation is open to doubt, to refinement, to being overthrown.
That's how science keeps learning more and more -- by challenging current explanations and looking for better ones. In science and everyday life we aren't after certainty. Instead, we seek the most likely and reasonable explanation. Such as, we aren't living in a dream or a computer simulation, though this is a possibility.
You may think I have gone absurd but still you won't be able to answer my question. Can you prove that this world is real and not a dream. No you can't. All what you can say is that according to my experiences I believe the world is real. But still you can't say that you are certain of it because certain means having no room for doubt and that's not possible.
For some reason you keep asking us atheists to prove things, whereas if you want people to accept that God is real, you should be focused on presenting evidence that supports God's existence. Like I said, nothing is 100% certain. Since you appear to agree with this, I assume you also agree that it isn't certain that God exists. Correct?
All we do is believe. And if this argument isn't enough I have got another. How can you tell a person who doesn't feel pain how pain feels like. It's a real question not a hypothetical one. There are people who don't feel pain. And they just don't know what pain is. You can only try to describe them what pain feels like but you will never be able to know what it actually is.
This is true of everything. You have no idea what my experience feels like, and I have no idea what your experience feels like. No one can know someone else's experience, because all experience is personal.
They might think that you are telling lies. You can't tell a blind person what it feels like to see. You can't tell a mute person what it's like to hear what you can do is try. They may tell to your face that you are telling lies.
Correct. And us atheists can't tell religious believers what it feels like to not see God. So you simply have a belief about atheists, because there is no way that you can tell what we actually experience. Nor can an atheist tell what a religious believer experiences. Again, this is true of every experience.
Same goes with those who have experienced the allmighty. They can just describe to you. But they can't tell you exactly because words can't describe such things just like you can't explain to a blind how it feels like to see , you can't tell a mute person how it feels like to listen.
OK, but here's the thing. We know a lot about sight and hearing. Eyes see. Ears hear. And seeing and hearing are senses that tell us things about the physical world, the reality that we all share. By contrast, those who claim to have experienced God can't tell other people what sense they used to have this experience. Nor can they point to the divinity that the unknown sense produced an awareness of. So your analogy fails.
I'll say this again: if I see a movie, like Summer of Soul (great movie, by the way), I can try to describe why I liked it, but the description doesn't capture my experience of the movie. However, I can tell you how to watch the movie, so we can be sure we're having different experiences of the same reality. Where is this God you speak of? How can we be sure that your God is the same as the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or the thousands of other Gods? Which experience of God should I trust?
You can't describe pain to someone who doesn't feel it , there are some actual people like that. You just can't describe these things through words !!! You just can't !!! I will copy paste this message to every section of this website where there are atheists. Don't think I am a bot. I just need to say the same thing to everyone.
Your argument is weak, if you're trying to defend a belief in God. Psychotic people have experiences of realities that are only in their own minds. So do people who dream, or take psychedelic drugs. Again, this is true of every experience anyone has ever had or will have. No one can fully describe their experiences through words, because experiences aren't made of words.
But you've used a lot of words to argue why words can't capture all of reality. I agree with you, of course. What we do in science and everyday life is use words for various purposes, one of which is to explain the nature of reality. So I invite you to use words to describe how you had an experience of God, and what that experience consisted of.
And I swear if you give answers to my these 2 questions. I will become atheist !!! Try to give a logical explanation , be true to yourselves.
In my opinion, you've just become an atheist. Congratulations! Glad to help.
Here's the excellent comment from Appreciative Reader.
Hello, Anurag Nathyal. It's astonishing, how people are so very ignorant about the basics of the scientific method. And no, it isn't just you, and nor is this a derogatory comment against you: this ignorance is far more widespread, and extends to far more ...stratified realms, than one might imagine.
I don't think you're trolling. I do think you're honestly ignorant about this very basic thing, as so many others are.
The short answer to your question is: "Proof" is what you do in closed systems, essentially tautological systems, like logic and math. When it comes to the real world, and specifically when it comes to the scientific method, the operative word you're looking for is not "proof", but something like "best-fit model", or, more generally, "best and most consistent and most economical explanation", that is based on, another operative word, "evidence".
I'm not looking for a detailed discussion, just thought I'd send out a helping hand to a fellow human being who's seemingly grappling with an honest question. Just think over the short paragraph above, and you'll find your answer. You're welcome.