Jan 20, 2008

Victor J. Stenger

I attended a lecture this afternoon by Victor J. Stenger, an emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii and an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. The lecture was sponsored by the Center For Inquiry chapter for Southern Arizona.

Dr. Stenger's latest book is pictured above and is entitled, God: The Failed Hypothesis, How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. His book was a New York Times bestseller and was the subject of his talk today.

Even though I regularly enjoy the Center For Inquiry's podcast about science and reason, The Point of Inquiry, and subscribe to one of their publications, Skeptical Inquirer, I had never attended a function of our local CFI chapter.

Dr. Stenger's lecture was very interesting, particularly the question and answer period that followed his talk. Some of the questions were too technical for me to fully understand, but it was enjoyable none the less.

In his book, Dr. Stenger makes an interesting argument about evaluating extraordinary claims like the existence of God. Dr. Stenger says that when evaluating such a claim, it is crucial to ask if tangible evidence of the phenomenon ought to exist. If it is reasonable to expect such evidence, its absence argues against the existence of the phenomenon. Simply said, if God is omnipotent, there ought to be some tangible evidence of his existence. But of course, there isn't.

He used the Bible story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt to illustrate his point. He suggests that the Moses story can be dismissed as myth because no tangible evidence exists to support it when it is reasonable to assume that some evidence should exist. He pointed out that thousands of people trekking across the desert should have left some signs that they had been there, such as large campsites. Although scientists can find small sites that both predate and postdate the exodus story, they find none that support it.

I would suspect that you can apply the same logic to dismiss claims that we are visited regularly by UFOs. There ought to be some tangible signs, but there aren't, so a reasonable person can conclude that they don't exist.

It was an interesting afternoon.

Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky


Steve said...

Now, just to play devil's advocate, there are people who would contend that everything around us -- the stars, the plants, the dogs and cats -- are tangible evidence that God exists.

I think you could make an argument that God exists if we will him (her? it?) to exist. When it comes to the spiritual plane, doesn't something exist for you even if it's just in your own mind? That's faith, after all.

Or you could argue that it's all delusion. I don't know the answer!

Kurt said...

Proving the stories in the bible aren't true is not a proof that there is no God (or Gods).

d. chedwick bryant said...

Next time take me along and I will explain the really technical quantum physics-y stuff to you.