Why God Cannot Be Proven: A Star Trek Argument
The interplay between science and religion rarely strays from popular discussion. Since the issue is so charged, articles espousing varying views on the matter prompt both criticism and praise across the Internet. Particularly popular is the matter of God's existence or nonexistence.
Last Christmas, Eric Metaxas penned a widely-shared piece for the Wall Street Journal arguing, in essence, that research shows that Earth-like life is so rare and so special that scientific evidence now increasingly favors the notion that some sort of creator put us here.
Metaxas is not a scientist, of course, and unsurprisingly, his article completely misrepresented how science works. Just because science has shown thus far that intelligent life is relatively rare throughout the universe, such evidence does not say anything about the existence of God. It simply says that life is relatively rare. That's all.
Even if Metataxas presented stronger evidence, his argument still would have failed spectacularly. We can use Star Trek to elucidate why.
Perhaps the strongest evidence possible for the existence of God would be if some being came down from the sky and repeated all the feats performed in the Bible. But, as one enlightened listener of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe (SGU) podcast recently pointed out, "What could a God do that couldn't either be done by a being such as Q or faked with high technology? Even if the Bible were 100% true, how could we be sure it wasn't just some Q-like being screwing with us?"
The reader was referencing one of the most powerful and memorable characters in Star Trek, an eccentric, apparently omnipotent entity with a flair for the dramatic and a tendency to cause mischief.
Yale neurologist Steven Novella, host of the SGU, concurred with the listener's logic.
"If you hypothesize a being that is outside of the laws of the universe, how can a being like a human who is constrained by those laws ever be able to evaluate evidence that demonstrates the existence of the being outside those laws? The answer is you can't... There is no experiment we can do, no observation that we can do... to distinguish between an advanced alien and God."
For those unacquainted with Star Trek, Rabbi Alan Lurie stated the "Q Problem" in layman's terms over at Huffington Post. Describing a debate between theists and atheists over the existence of God, he wrote:
Michael Shermer said that he'd find convincing proof [of God's existence], "if you could have God grow new limbs on amputees from the Iraq war, Christian soldiers, praying for them to be healed."
But that was actually poor logic from Shermer. As Lurie pointed out:
Even if this did happen, it would not prove the existence of God but would instead prove that there is some kind of regenerative force or energy that responds to the right kind of conscious thought. Likewise, a glowing presence and booming voice appearing on the White House lawn proclaiming "I am the Lord your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage" as the waters of the Potomac part, would prove that there is an entity with powerful technology, and would be no more a proof of God than an airplane to a cave man.
Science is a far-reaching enterprise, but its purview is constrained to the natural world. Seeing as how God is undeniably a supernatural concept, the question of his existence falls outside science's reach. No scientific evidence will ever conclusively prove the existence of God.