Can Atheism Be Proven Wrong?
Continued from previous page
That's clearly not a god who's posited by any religion I know about. Not even the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. But he's hypothetically possible. And if this series of events happened, I would change my mind about my atheism, and I would accept this god's existence. I wouldn't necessarily worship him -- I'd probably conclude that he was a jerk, and I'd only worship him out of purely self-interested fear of getting smacked down -- but I'd conclude that he was real.
Now. Many people at this point will play the "super-advanced space alien technology" card. They'll point out, as Arthur C. Clarke did, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And they'll argue that "super-advanced space alien technology" would be a more plausible explanation for all these weird phenomena than supernatural gods.
And they'll have a point. You could argue, as I do, that in the face of a sudden, massive onslaught of the violations of known physical laws -- and in the face of a clear verbal message saying, "Yes, I am Loki pulling all this crap, I really am a god, so make with the burnt offerings already" -- the god hypothesis would be the most reasonable and parsimonious one. But you could also argue that the space alien hypothesis would be the most reasonable and parsimonious. After all, we know that physical life and technology exist; we don't know that supernatural beings exist. And when it comes to conflicts between natural and supernatural explanations of unexplained phenomena...well, again. in all of human history, natural explanations have won that fight time after time. Natural explanations have an entirely unbeaten, millennia-old record over supernatural ones. They should always be our go-to choice.
I don't want to get into that particular argument right here. What I do want to point out is that my conclusion -- my acceptance of the trickster god hypothesis in the face of healed amputees and changed orbits and Loki's name in the sky and so on -- would be provisional . It wouldn't be a fundamental axiom or a tenet of unshakable faith. It would be a provisional conclusion, based on my best understanding of the best currently available evidence. If I concluded that the trickster god hypothesis was the best explanation of these weird phenomena, and then someone showed me convincing evidence that it was really super-advanced alien technology...I'd change my mind. I would renounce Loki. It'd be a provisional conclusion; a falsifiable hypothesis.
Making it completely unlike any God hypotheses I'm aware of.
Do I think my atheism could hypothetically be mistaken? Sure. I've already stated what kind of evidence would persuade me out of my atheism: I've gone out on that limb, and I stand by that limb. On that limb. Whatever. I still think atheism is falsifiable -- and I still think it ought to be falsifiable. I think it makes our atheism more philosophically sound. (Not to mention better able to stand up in a fight.)
But to persuade me that my atheism was false, I'd have to see more than just evidence for the religion hypothesis. I'd have to see a religion hypothesis that was coherent. I'd have to see a religion hypothesis that was testable, capable of making useful predictions, not shot through with internal inconsistencies and logical contradictions. I'd have to see a religion hypothesis that was worthy of the name "hypothesis." And I'd have to see a religion hypothesis that explained, not only any new evidence that seemed to support it, but the complete lack of good evidence supporting it for the thousands and thousands of years before now.