Over the past two days, I finalized the results of the religiosity surveys conducted by Shermer and Sulloway in 1998, and several other surveys from the earlier literature. As you recall I provided comment to this work which I will expand on herein.
To proceed, I need to adjust the survey data so to force it into an ‘either or’ situation, i.e., I am a believer or I am a nonbeliever. The most reasonable cut is to take the percentage of persons claiming absolutely to be a nonbeliever (though it is likely that the percentage would drop if we deleted the “creator restriction.” People who consider themselves as an agnostic, or soft atheist, psychologically maintain some kind of belief in some kind of God, most likely formless, and so do not qualify as absolute nonbelievers. Recalculation gives:
Percentages of atheists: Percentages of believers:
1916 scientists: 41% 1916 believers: 59%
1996 scientists: 45 1996 believers: 55
1998 skeptics:: 40 1998 skeptics: 60
1998 general: 13 1998 general: 87
Oftentimes, in contentious argument between hard-core nonbelievers (atheists) and creator-theists (most common concept of God in America), the nonbelievers insist that the creator-theists must prove their standing philosophical postulate that a Creator-God actually exists. Moreover, the nonbelievers do not need to disprove the standing postulate that there is no God.
Historically, the demand to prove that God exists was shared by Doctors of the Church during Medieval times, most importantly, Thomas Aquinas and St. Anselm. The arguments offered were solely philosophical, arising out of Aristotelean logic and physics. I will forego detail for the moment, other than to say, that the counter-arguments, based upon similar logical premises, are equally untenable. However, meaningful counter-argument can be had using quantum physical considerations which I may discuss in a later blog.
Regardless, philosophical arguments for or against God all fail as the original postulate(s) or premise(s) is invariably incorrect in one way or another as they arrive from personal opinion and to proven fact. In logic, if my memory serves me well, we can apply the following to deductive processes:
If the original premise, P, is incorrect, then the final conclusion is incorrect.
If the original premise, P, is true, then the final conclusion is true.
Wherein, neither the believer nor the nonbeliever can fully establish the absolute truth of his or her premise. So we dispense with such foolishness.
Similar deductive problems arise when scientists attempt to apply classical physics (or poor quantum mechanics) to argue for or against the existence of God. The best example is the argument made for intelligent design (which is not so intelligent) which is easily countered using evolutionary argument and the physical record. Though, I will likely go into more detail as to attempts by well known physicists to sneak God into the world, as does Hawking, Penrose, Tripler, Davies, Wolfe, and others; in truth, they fail when applied to the known facts of our universe and the deductive processes.
The following may create some argument among statisticians, as I am being quite free in restating in words the statistical notion of the default (null) and alternative hypotheses. I do think it serves a useful purpose for our considerations.
In my readings on this conundrum, I have yet to find a sound statistical statement as to the proper default hypothesis. In other words, if a researcher decides to conduct a study as to the existence of God, does he or she chose as the default (most reasonable supposition):
Ho: If a significant majority of people feel that God exists, in one manner or another, the default hypothesis is that God most likely exists and no convincing evidence will be found to disprove the default.
Ha: If the majority of people feel that God exists, in one manner or another, in order to “disprove” the default hypothesis, the results of a set of suitable experiments (if such can be devised) will have to show that the probability of God existing is statistically unlikely to the mind of a rational person and the alternative hypothesis is that God does not exist.
Unfortunately, unless we sample the general population, including all persons, many times, asking the most general question possible, “Regardless of your personal definition of God, Higher Mind, Savior, Creator and so on, you must answer either Yes or No to the following question, “Is there a God? Without such, it is more difficult to derive the proper null hypothesis to use to do experiments. This is particularly problematic herein, as the overall opinion may hover around 50%.
My take? Without more ingenuity, the question of the existence of God remains solely a personal decision, intellectual or emotional. The existence or nonexistence of God is currently insolvable using physics or psychology. It may be solvable with more effort. However, the arguments of the nonbelievers are no more convincing than the arguments of the theists.
Therefore, I recommend that both parties just shut up and learn to get along!