Inductive reasoning as the basis for believing gods exist
Inductive reasoning cannot be used when there is no empirical evidence to base an inductive argument on. The problem of induction is only relevant when we have been able to empirically verify something. Not speculate on the existence of things we have no evidence for.
Nobody can prove the non-existence of evidence for a thing’s existence but this type of argument can be reduced to the same absurdity as not being able to prove the non-existence of evidence for golden mountains, leprechauns, fairies, Russell’s teapot, etc.
It is a waste of time asking whether we can prove the non-existence of these things because we can never know the answer. Actually, it’s beyond that, it’s a reductio ad absurdum. Trying to prove that evidence exists for something we have no evidence for existing in the first place is absurd.
What evidence is there for non-existent gods?
Until somebody can produce evidence for the existence for something existing we shouldn’t believe that these things exist; unless our sense perception is mistaken and we cannot access the ultimate reality of the universe. This is something we cannot know. Any claims to the contrary cannot be substantiated nor justified. Most atheists are agnostic in this sense but they still call themselves atheists.
We think about things that exist because we have evidence for them existing. If we don’t have evidence for something existing, we say it doesn’t exist. How can you produce evidence for something which you have no methods for conducting an inductive argument to form the justification of its existence? This is not the same as the black swan fallacy …
Have we found God yet?
The only way gods exist is if we cannot access the ultimate reality of nature or we haven’t found them yet. This is a very old argument (see: Kant’s Transcendental Idealism). Trying to prove this is representative of reality using human knowledge is futile, and if you think we can produce evidence for gods then you must back that claim up.
- If you think we can produce evidence for gods then you must back that claim up.
- If you don’t think we can then you must also give reasons for this.
Either of these two arguments outlines things beyond what we can know. Taking a side and saying one is correct is not sound argumentation. Neither side can know with any level of certainty. But the existence of gods (to somebody who doesn’t think that they do exist) has the same level of empirical justification as the existence of the infinite number of possible things that could exist but we don’t claim to say we think that they really do.
Do we disbelieve or lack belief in gods the same way as we disbelieve in fairies?
It may appear that the rational point of view is to say you don’t know whether gods exist and hence why you are an agnostic. Most atheists are also agnostics when you really break it down to this level. There are many that may claim certainty about their belief or lack of belief in gods but this is an unwise position.
If somebody were to ask an atheist if they think that gods exist, they would say, “yes”. Just the same as they wouldn’t say that they think fairies exist too. Maybe there are people who have an ontology that encapsulates non-existent entities.
In theory, we could set up an experiment that could be falsified to show that gods exist. Until the time comes that this type of experiment is successful, we have no justification based on any empirical evidence to go around to people saying we think that gods exist. Just the same as is the case for other entities we can’t empirically verify exist, nor falsify their existence.
You can say it is a lack of belief in non-existent entities such as fairies, golden mountains, etc. or a suspension of belief in fairies existing, but this is just language games. If you lack a belief in something you still can define what that thing is. If you say you lack a belief in something, then you are an agnostic. But once more most atheists stick to the claim that they lack belief in gods. But really at this level, they are agnostics too.
Most traditional agnostics think there is at least some evidence for gods or think that this is unknowable. Many people say their agnostic, as in, I can’t make my mind up about it. These are two distinct senses but this is how the term is often used outside of philosophical circles.
Do you believe in God? Oh, I’m agnostic …
Agnostic atheists and most atheists are given by the above definition of atheist.
This is how Bertrand Russell saw it:
As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.
Agnostics tend to be only agnostic with respect to the dominant god of their culture. There would be many who aren’t but most are only agnostics in this sense. Also, this is not a consistent stance, so most agnostics are also being illogical in that respect because they have a very specific god in mind when they say they are agnostic. But then there are agnostic theists? And there are agnostic deists too if we want to be more precise etc. An agnostic theist would claim there is evidence for the dominant god, but an agnostic atheist would deny there is. But couldn’t prove the non-existence of such evidence. This is again where this discussion descends into word-play.
What is possible?
There are degrees of possibility for gods existing. But unless there is empirical evidence for something existing, we shouldn’t be saying or thinking it does actually exist. In possible world semantics, it is possible that x exists in world w if we can access that world from our world. The only things that are truly impossible are existent contradictions. Illogical claims are by definition an impossibility. Everything is possible to a degree. There is no consistent way to use a type of calculus to describe the possibility of something non-existent existing since we have zero empirical information to base such claims on. We have the same amount of evidence for Zeus existing that we do for the Abrahamic god existing (obviously those agnostics and believers living in this period of time would dispute that) and, one could argue, this is also the case for golden mountains. So how do you say what the probability of those things existing is when you have nothing to base this on? It would be nothing more than a decision based on emotional impulse. This isn’t very rational.
There is no consistent way to use a type of calculus to describe the possibility of something non-existent existing since we have zero empirical information to base such claims on. We have the same amount of evidence for Zeus existing that we do for the Abrahamic god existing (obviously those agnostics and believers living in this period of time would dispute that) and, one could argue, this is also the case for golden mountains. So how do you say what the probability of those things existing is when you have nothing to base this on? It would be nothing more than a decision based on emotional impulse. This isn’t very rational.
It gets a bit pedantic if you want to say you’re an atheist but people say, “you can’t prove atheism to be true with logical certainty!” People do get the wrong idea if you say you’re an agnostic, even though when you break it down, most atheists also would not be claiming to know with perfect certainty that gods do not exist. Whether they be the Abrahamic god in the West or the other thousands of deities that have been documented to have been a part of human cultures throughout history.