Can Atheism Be Proven Wrong?
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What's more: This hypothesis would have to do more than just explain whatever new evidence might appear to support it.
It would have to explain the utter lack of good supporting evidence in the past.
It would have to explain why, in thousands and thousands and thousands of years of human history, supernatural explanations of unexplained phenomena have never once panned out...and a natural explanation has always, always, always turned out to be right.
This is another hugely important point that PZ, along with others defending his position, has been making in these debates. Atheists aren't just atheists because we don't see any good evidence here and now for the God hypothesis. We're atheists because, in all of human history, there has never once been any good evidence for the God hypothesis. We're atheists because, as Julia Sweeney said in Letting Go of God, "The world behaves exactly as you would expect it would, if there were no Supreme Being, no Supreme Consciousness, and no supernatural." The world behaves that way -- and it always has. We're atheists because, every time in history that we've come to a better understanding about the world, that understanding has always been one of physical cause and effect. We're atheists because claims from the past about miracles and so on have always come from unreliable sources, and have never once been substantiated. We're atheists because, over the decades and centuries and millennia, religions have risen and fallen, not because they've been better supported with good evidence, but for social and psychological and political reasons, entirely consistent with them being entirely made up. We're atheists because religion has had millennia to prove itself right -- millennia in which it has dominated the intellectual and scientific discourse, for all but the past few decades -- and has utterly failed. We're atheists because the religion hypothesis has been tested -- and tested and tested and tested, and tested again, and tested yet again, and then tested one more time to be sure, and given the benefit of the doubt and tested again, and then again, and again -- and has never, ever, ever panned out.
So to persuade us -- me, anyway, and I suspect many other atheists -- that a religion was correct, it would have to do more than show evidence of a few miracles in our time. It would have to explain why those miracles were happening now... and yet had somehow never happened before. It would have to explain why the world had always been best explained by physical cause and effect, but now, overnight, that had changed. Even if a 900-foot Jesus appeared in the sky tomorrow, healing amputees and unambiguously stating his message in all languages and whatnot, a religion would have to explain why God was making all this happen now...and not at any other time in human history.
Now -- and here, again, is a point I think PZ is missing -- the fact that religion has utterly failed to do this in thousands of years doesn't mean that it never, ever could. I could imagine, for instance, a malevolent trickster god, who's deliberately hidden all traces of his existence from us for hundreds of thousands of years...but who today, just to screw with us, has decided to show his existence by healing amputees, moving Earth into Pluto's orbit without anyone getting chilly, writing his name in the sky in letters 100 feet tall in every language known to humanity, and making all members of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, alone among all other religions, healthy, wealthy and successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams.