Science Cannot Disprove Leprechauns


It looks like the religious trolls are at it again, this week in a Time article, “Why Science Does Not Disprove God.” Of course, they always manage to omit the identical statement that science cannot disprove leprechauns. But if you were convinced by the impossibility of disproof of leprechauns as a sign to believe in leprechauns, you’d be treated as a lunatic.

Biology, physics, mathematics, engineering, and medicine help us understand the world, but there is much about life that remains a mystery.

Duh, that is why scientists around the world are still searching for the truth. No one claimed there is no mystery left (except, ironically, a conclave of religious fundamentalists who think that a holy book answers everything).

A number of recent books and articles will have you believe that—somehow—science has now disproved the existence of God.

What? The very intro sets up the straw man for the rest of the article. Aczel claims to be criticizing the proposition that science has disproved the existence of God, a proposition that has been uttered by no one. Let’s see him continue:

A number of recent books and articles will have you believe that—somehow—science has now disproved the existence of God. We know so much about how the Universe works, their authors claim, that God is simply unnecessary: we can explain all the workings of the Universe without the need for a “creator.”

Is that misleading or what? Aczel equivocates the extremely strong claim that “science has now disproved the existence of God” with the much weaker claim that “God is simply unnecessary.” But he ignores the weaker claim for the rest of the article, preferring to attack the strong straw man claim.

But does this vast knowledge base disprove the existence of some kind of preexistent outside force that may have launched our Universe on its way?

Uh, again, no one is arguing that.

But has modern science, from the beginning of the 20th Century, proved that there is no God, as some commentators are now claiming?

Who are these commentators?

But [science] has not revealed to us why the Universe came into existence, nor what preceded its birth in the Big Bang. Equally, biological evolution has not brought us the slightest understanding of how the first living organisms emerged from inanimate matter on this planet, and how the advanced eukaryotic cells—the highly structured building blocks of advanced life forms—ever emerged from simpler organisms. Neither does it explain one of the greatest mysteries of science: how did consciousness arise in living things? Where do symbolic thinking and self-awareness come from? What is it that allows us humans to understand the mysteries of biology, physics, mathematics, engineering, and medicine? And what enables us to create great works of art, music, architecture, and literature? Science is nowhere near to explaining these deep mysteries.

These mysteries are precisely the frontiers of science. Aczel is using a classic “god of the gaps” argument, that what science currently doesn’t know must be God. This was refuted as early as ancient Greece, by Hippocrates: “Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end to divine things.” There’s no reason currently to suggest that mysteries like consciousness won’t eventually be explained by neuroscience.

I could keep on going, but Aczel’s article is a mess, and this blog post almost dignifies it too much. Just remember that we don’t know everything there is to know yet. Therefore, leprechauns exist.

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