Finally, let’s address 3, the implication that at some point in the future science will discover that God does exist (and presumably that Judaism is the One True Faith). We must also address the secondary implication that the chance that science may in the future prove the God hypothesis correct is sufficient justification for a current belief in God.
There’s no reason except for wishful thinking to think science will one day find only God could have been responsible for biodiversity. It’s not as though there are currently two popular debated scientific theories, evolution and God, and the evidence currently leans somewhat towards evolution. In such a case, a person could reasonably say that he finds the God theory more likely despite evolution being favored by many experts. He would have to justify why he finds it more likely, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to think further work in biology might show the theory he favors is in fact correct.
But that is not the case. What we have instead is one scientific theory – evolution - a theory about as well established as any other scientific theory; and a tradition stretching back to antiquity that claims God
created all the animals as they are now. There are many traditions that stretch back to antiquity, among them that the Earth is flat; the Earth is the center of the universe; and that everything is made of the four elements fire, earth, wind, and water. We have abandoned those traditions because they are counter-factual. We do not hold Aristotle’s elements and the modern elemental table to be equally valid theories. We do not propose that in the future, we might discover that everything is indeed made of earth, fire, wind, and water.
The phrasing also, once again, presents evolution / God-did-it as a dichotomy. There is an assumption that one of these two must be right, and that if evolution is proven wrong, the God theory is right by default. In reality, were evolution to be proven wrong it would be replaced with another scientific theory. In the history of scientific inquiry, never once has something which was once thought to be caused by supernatural phenomena and shown by scientists to be instead caused by wholly natural phenomena reverted back to being explained by the supernatural. While this doesn’t mean that it will never happen in future, it does mean that there is no good reason to assume that it will. No reason other than wishful thinking.
There is also the fact that evolution says nothing about the existence of God. It merely makes Him unnecessary for explaining biodiversity, just as the germ theory of disease made demons unnecessary for explaining illnesses. The most likely outcome of the religion / evolution debate is that religions will adapt and fit evolution into their theologies. Many moderate religions have already done so. Most fundamentalist religions acknowledge that diseases are caused by germs, yet still maintain a belief in demons. I think it may be only a matter of time before they adapt to theologically acknowledge evolutionary theory.
To scientifically prove God exists, it is not enough to disprove theories that provide naturalistic explanations of the world. There must be actual, positive proof of God’s existence. To prove God is responsible for biodiversity, for instance, it is not sufficient to disprove the theory of evolution and then point to a book that claims God did it. Independent positive evidence of God’s involvement must be provided. Alternatively, if one could scientifically prove God exists, prove God authored the book, and prove that God tells the truth, then we could accept the book’s testimony as to how biodiversity came to be.
As for the implication that the possibility God may be proven by science in the future is a good reason to believe in Him now, well, anything is possible. It’s possible I’ll sprout wings and learn to fly. But until I do, I’m not going to jump off any tall buildings. Using this epistemology it’s impossible to determine what it’s reasonable to believe in. After all, even if right now we have no reason to believe something is true, future discoveries may show that it is. The only rational approach is to look at the evidence we have right now and determine whether, in the light of current evidence, it is reasonable to believe something is true or false. That we might be wrong is an inevitable side effect of our being unable to see the future, but that possibility is not a justification for abandoning reason and arbitrarily declaring things true because, after all, we don’t know the future and maybe someday…
To make things worse, it may actually be impossible to scientifically prove God exists – at least, the idea of God most people hold. Before a premise can be scientifically investigated, it must be rigorously defined, and it may be hard to find a less well-defined concept. Ask ten people for finely-detailed definition of God, and you’ll get ten answers. Even we’re one to come up with a generally-agreed upon definition, nearly all definitions include non-falsifiable characteristics.
For instance, the claim that god always answers prayers. If you get what you prayed for, God answered, “Yes.” If you don’t get what you prayed for, God answered, “No.” It is impossible to test whether God answers prayers by looking at the outcomes because whatever the outcome, it is assumed God heard and responded to the prayer. Therefore it is likely that God cannot ever be scientifically proven. Not because His existence is “beyond the reach of science,” with the implication that science just isn’t up to the task; but because the concept of God is structured in such a way that it is impossible to point to something as a disproof. Yet the impossibility of proving this definition of prayer false is not proof that God answers prayers. After all, the same argument could be used to “prove” that a rock answers prayers, or a chair, or absolutely anything. It’s not right or wrong, it’s not even wrong. Without a concrete definition and falsifiable attributes, we can no more scientifically investigate the question of God’s existence than we can investigate the question of whether the rock answers all prayers with “yes” or “no.”
I think that in the coming chapters the author is going to try to scientifically prove the existence of God. That should be interesting. Maybe I read too much into the title of part two and its accompanying quote and have been tearing down straw-men. I sincerely hope so, but I have a feeling that I’m going to be disappointed.