Can Science (dis)prove God?

My last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/pondering-the-effectiveness-of-prayer/) neatly leads into a question that I have pondered a little recently.

Two blogs that I read have published very good articles on the subject and very conveniently they take opposing views.

In the yes camp there is http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/can-science-test-the-supernatural-yes/ and in the no camp there is http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/science-and-the-supernatural-2/.

Having pondered it and re-read the two posts above (which I do recommend) I have come to the conclusion that Neil is right and scientific tests on the claims of the religious are not tests on the supernatural. The supernatural will remain untestable because scientific tests by definition can only be on the natural. Let’s ignore for the moment that the supernatural is a moving goalpost anyway.

However, that’s not all.

There is a valid conclusion based on these tests, and that is; with the testable claims of the religious coming up false, it is valid to conclude that there is no supernatural entity. But it is not a proven fact.

If Jerry Coyne was in fact correct then I don’t think that Richard Dawkins would have made the ‘not quite sure’ quote that made a lot of press earlier this year (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9102740/Richard-Dawkins-I-cant-be-sure-God-does-not-exist.html).

Neil is also right at the end of his blog to say that this is about honesty. Jerry should have been more clear and honest in his piece, what he should have stated was that its valid to conclude that there is no supernatural because the testable claims that believers make are consistently shown to be wrong when scientific rigour is applied.

It might be a subtle distinction, but it is very important to be accurate and bravo to Neil for picking up on that.

Pondering the effectiveness of Prayer

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that during my Christian days I was utterly convinced of the effectiveness of prayer.

Over the last two decades (and probably more) there have been a number of tests for the effectiveness of prayer, this article is just one example of many that exist on the subject (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/23/AR2006032302177.html). It was during the 1990s that I first became aware of such tests and the negative conclusions. As a dedicated Christian at the time I very quickly dismissed them; referring to Luke chapter 4 and not testing God (http://bible.cc/luke/4-12.htm).

It was clear in my mind at the time that these attempts by doubting scientists were invoking some form of supernatural hide and seek and God was not going to perform for them.

Over the years, as more and more of these articles came out, the conclusions started to bother me more and more. My pat apologetics to the problem was becoming less convincing to myself and for a while I actively ignored the difficulties it caused me.

Anyway, there was always the major power of prayer event that happened to me that I could fall back on (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/the-dramatic-deliverance/). After that event I did get involved in my church’s prayer for healing ministry and over the next few years prayed for a fair few people. I saw many blessed by the experience of prayer, that is to say they said they felt blessed and the walked away smiling. Did I ever experienced something that would categorically come under the banner of answered prayer that I could honestly say would have been validated by a scientists watching?

No. There was once a time when a friend and I were praying for an elderly lady at a weekend away and she specifically asked for prayer for her failing hearing. My friend and I prayed for that, we were full of faith that it could happen, and after what felt like 10-15 minutes she did say, in response to my friend asking, that yes her hearing had improved a little. We both praised the Lord. However, even at that time, I did hold a little doubt in my mind that she was actually being completely truthful. I can’t explain why I questioned her honesty, it was a good 15 years before I was to start the path I am on today. So, no I don’t believe I ever saw anything that qualified as supernatural answer to prayer.

Yet for many years I continued to accept and believe that the power of prayer was real and effective around the world constantly.

When I look back now I do wonder if my prayer experiences and the reports of studies failing to find a link would sow a seed of doubt that would later take root. I can’t say for certain that is the case, I think its just one of those things that sits there and nags at the sub conscious and suddenly you realise its there when other things click into place.

When I read those same studies and articles now I do see how they are rigorous and not at all biased against faith. They are honest testing and should be taken seriously and for me they serve as proof that I do now hold the right answer.