Dear Matthew and Pat,
there is absolutely no observational evidence for the existence
of a God, nor any reason to hypothesise such an entity in order
to explain anything that is observable.
A very straightforward application of Occam's principle then
suffices. Of course this is not a *proof*, but it is a sound
That is not a scientific argument. If it were, we should not have
thought the Higgs Boson was a possibility until very recently,
and we should not be talking about dark matter.
I agree with Pat on the issues about the Higgs boson, dark matter,
and the scientific methodology for developing testable theories
But I don't believe that any application of Occam's principle is
*straightforward*. A great deal of harm was caused by over zealous
shaving with that razor. Ernst Mach, for example, used it to ban
talk about atoms -- including Boltzmann's statistical mechanics.
The chemists adopted the atomic hypothesis in the early 19th c. For
over a century, they were far ahead of the physicists in developing
testable theories about atoms and molecules. They couldn't see atoms,
but they made testable predictions about how they combined -- and
they correctly classified them in the Periodic Table.
In psychology, Mach and the logical positivists had a strong influence
on the behaviorists who tried to ban the word 'psychology' because
it assumed an unobservable psyche. They also banned many testable
hypotheses -- including easily testable psycholinguistic hypotheses.
Since then, many of them have been verified by neuroscience.
The hypothesis of there being a god is a scientific hypothesis,
no matter how much the faithful would like to protect it from the
rigorous gaze of actual scientific practice.
I agree that the man with a long grey beard surrounded by choirs
of angels and dead people could benefit from the razor.
But note that Heraclitus used the word 'logos' without mentioning
theos. It's also significant that Heraclitus lived in the Greek
colonies in Asia Minor around 500 BC, when they were under the
control of the Persian empire. That was also close to the
Silk Road, which was well traveled by merchants, soldiers,
and gurus (AKA "wise men from the East").
Scholars have noted similarities between what Heraclitus said
about the logos and what Lao Tzu said about the Tao. They also
noted many similarities with the sayings of Gautama Buddha --
all three of them were approximate contemporaries. And none
of the three assumed gods.
As for experiments, how about the recent empirical tests
of the efficacy of prayer? (In sum: it has zero effect.)
That depends on what you mean by "prayer". The propositional
content does not make testable predictions. But the altered
states of consciousness -- induced by meditation, chanting,
and praying -- have been verified by psychological tests,
physiological tests, and brain scans.
The notions of logos, Tao, and Buddhist Enlightenment are related
to what Spinoza said about nature and to Einstein's remark about
believing in "Spinoza's God".
Bottom line: Razors can be useful, but you have to be careful
about what you cut.
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