imageJerry Coyne, one of America’s leading Atheists, ponders the question, Can science test the supernatural? in his blog named after his best selling book, Why Evolution Is True::

In other words, we can provisionally accept that there is no god because we don’t see the kind of evidence that we should see if god were present (answered prayers, confirmable miracles at Lourdes, and so on), and we see things that we don’t expect if there were a loving, omnipotent, and omniscient God (the most obvious, of course, is the presence of undeserved evil).

  • Indeed, if miracles, answered prayers, and regrown limbs were seen, the faithful would trumpet this as evidence for God, and of course many believers are always looking (in vain) for such evidence, viz. the search for the remnants of Noah’s Ark, the supposed authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, the ludicrous attempts of creationists to verify that the Grand Canyon was caused by the flood.  In truth, believers want, need, and look for for evidence for their faith. But in the end, that evidence always comes down to a kind of “knowledge” that is neither confirmable nor convincing: revelation.
  • This all means that, contrary to the National Academies of Science, Judge Jones, the National Center for Science Education, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the idea of God and the supernatural are scientific (i.e., empirically testable) hypotheses, at least in principle.  Science can—and repeatedly has—tested the supernatural.  Sure, one-off miracles in the past, like the resurrection of Jesus, can’t be tested directly, but we can assess them as more or less credible by applying Bayes’s theorem (indeed, that’s what Hume was really doing when he asked whether it is more likely that a miracle happened or that the person reporting one was mistaken, deluded, or lying).

There is much that I agree with even if I disagree with his overall premise: the “Yes !!” he adds to the title of his posting. I hate seeing the Shroud mixed up with remnants of Noah’s Ark and many other biblical literalisms. But then again that is half of America’s Christianity, so I understand why Coyne mistakes subjects he is not familiar with, perhaps. 

Can we similarly also provisionally accept that there is a god? I think so.