Let me state quite emphatically – we cannot falsify the statement, “God exist.” But before we celebrate too quickly…
For many atheists (and theists, oddly enough) comes the belief that for any significant statement claiming to be knowledge, there must be valid scientific data behind the statement. For instance, if John says, “Mr. Green killed Mary in the library with the candlestick,” he needs to have evidence showing that Mr. Green actually committed the murder. We could have a video of him doing it, a taped confession, fingerprints on the candlestick, blood patterns on Mr. Green’s jacket, and so on. This method of knowledge – having empirical data – seems to then be applied universally to all knowledge.
But is empirical, falsifiable data necessary for the foundation of all knowledge? The answer is no. The statement, “For a belief to be rational it must be empirically falsified” cannot be empirically falsified. In other words, it’s a self-contradiction. If we said, “Some beliefs, in order to be rational, but be empirically falsified” we could avoid the contradiction, but this would leave open the ground that some knowledge that is rational is not empirically falsifiable.
As I stated in the comments from the previous topic (much thanks to Arjan who suggested I add this into the original posting):
Correct. Evidence doesn’t suffice as a requirement for the reasonability in every belief. Since this is the case, we now have groundwork to see whether or not belief in God is rational or irrational without having to point to evidence. Also, I would contend that even if belief in God is rational, it doesn’t necessitate that the belief is true (what is rational does not always have to be true).
In other words, while some beliefs require physical evidence, other beliefs do not. That I currently exist does not need evidence as it is known to me a priori. That when I look at other people I know that they actually exist independent of my thinking has no evidence to support it, yet we would argue that it’s almost irrational to doubt that other minds exist. If a man claims his wife loves him he has no real evidence to point to in order to prove she loves him; he simply knows it. Even outward actions wouldn’t prove it as there could be an internal belief contrary to the outward actions (with the outward actions being performed as a matter of obligation); he simply trusts that she loves him.
Even if one were to make counter-examples and show why evidence is needed in some cases, such attempts are woefully inadequate and leave the emperor naked. The one making a universal epistemic claim must validate that claim in all instances of knowledge. Thus, it is up to the adherent of scientism to defend its assertion that all knowledge must be empirically falsifiable; all the critic has to do is point out one counter-example to show how such an epistemic system fails. Stating, “Well what’s your alternative” or calling this philosophical “mumbo-jumbo,” or even going on the offense against theism doesn’t change the fact that a hole has been poked in the wall of scientism and if not fixed the wall will collapse.
The whole point is that while evidence is necessary for many beliefs, it isn’t necessary for all beliefs, particularly when dealing with other minds. So is it reasonable to believe in God under such criteria? When we realize that traditional theism treats God as a person (that is, another mind) and not a scientific object, we see that we must approach the reasonability of God’s existence as another mind and not as an object of science. Some may argue this is special pleading or an attempt to avoid a debate, but it’s not. It’s simply setting the parameters of the debate to see whether or not belief in God is rational.
I would submit that the Ontological argument, specifically as recently argued by Alvin Plantinga, provides good grounds to show that belief in God is rational (though it does not necessitate that it is true; one can be rational, yet untrue). Logically it is air-tight. Though many people critique the argument they can rarely point out what’s wrong with it (if they follow the argument properly; most critiques of the argument are generally based on a poor understanding of the argument).
If I am correct, then believing in God is rational even if it is not falsifiable. The idea that we must falsify everything or have empirical evidence in order to obtain knowledge is a false epistemology to hold onto. Rather, if we work within the traditional elements of theism we see it’s far more appropriate to treat God as a person. This, coupled with the ontological argument, provides good grounds to state that believing in God is rational, though not necessarily true.