Science and the empirical evidence against a divine being

Science and the empirical evidence against a divine being
By Gregory A. Clark, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1/08/2011
It is curious but telling that theists who so stoutly proclaim evidence for the existence of an Almighty God then fail to provide any. Of course, this depends on the definition of the word “evidence,” as it does on the definition of “God.”

Eric R. Johnson (“A reason for the season,” Opinion, Dec. 31) and Brian David Mitchell are among those who claim that they have personally experienced the Almighty.

Their statements could be entered as “evidence” in a court of law. But such claims do not constitute “evidence” for God in the objective, scientific meaning of the word.

As soon as considerations move from God as a metaphor into real-world specifics, scientific evidence becomes directly relevant. In reality, compelling empirical evidence indicates that the interventionist God of “Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, [and] Jews” (among others) does not exist — at least if the Bible is the literal word of God, as one-third of Americans believe.

Scientifically, the Bible is wrong from the very first sentence, and goes downhill from there. The earth was not formed “in the beginning” of the universe; fruit trees did not grow on earth before the sun and stars; birds and sea mammals did not precede land insects and reptiles.

The empirical evidence indicates a fundamentally different order. Likewise, there is no physical evidence that Yahweh (or Zeus, or Thor) hurls lightning bolts from the sky, causes rain via divine intervention, or stops the sun so that God’s chosen people will have more daylight to slaughter infidels.

But there is solid empirical evidence for the natural causes of meteorological events, and for a heliocentric solar system in which earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around — even if it did take the Catholic Church till 1992 to vindicate Galileo.

There is no empirical scientific evidence for a “Designer” of the universe. As the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial in Pennsylvania demonstrated, “intelligent design,” like creationism, is not science.

In contrast, there is strong empirical evidence for the cumulative power of natural selection and evolution. Again and again, biology screams unintelligent “design”: eye sockets for eyeless cave fish; sea mammals that breathe air; the panda’s “thumb,” jerry-rigged from a wrist bone; and men’s nipples. Such flaws are natural consequences of evolutionary and developmental constraints, but not of an omnipotent, benevolent designer.

There is no empirical evidence that progressing from simple to complex (from single cells to humans, for example) necessarily violates the second law of thermodynamics or requires divine intervention.

Dear reader, you did it yourself in only nine months.

The earth is a not closed system, and neither are you. The energy driving your progression came from external sources, most notably the sun.

And even theists acknowledge that the universe is expanding. The total entropy (disorder) of the universe is also increasing in accord with the second law, but this does not preclude an increase in localized order.

There is no empirical evidence for an omniscient Supreme Being.

Like other primitive religious texts, the Bible is full of blunders and contradictions, and is wholly devoid of modern knowledge such as Einstein’s equation or the genetic code. As with alien abductions, there is no tangible evidence that any advanced Being has communicated inside information to Mr. Johnson or others in their more recent close encounters with Him, Her, or It.

Thus, in rejecting God’s existence, most skeptics don’t worry much that they’re “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” A look in the tub readily confirms that there’s no baby there.

Gregory A. Clark is an associate professor in bioengineering at the University of Utah. He has been teaching and conducting empirical scientific research for over 30 years. The views expressed are his own.