• Question: do you have to not believe in god to be a scientist?

    Asked by ferdos10 to Keith on 23 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Keith Brain

      Keith Brain answered on 23 Jun 2010:

      You can still believe in god. You can:
      (1) believe in a God whose existence can’t be proven. This would be an act of faith.
      (2) believe in a God whose existence can be proven, but we haven’t done this yet. Some people are a little dismissive of this idea and call such a god, a “God of the gaps”
      (3) believe in a God whose existence has been proven – in which case I think that a lot of other scientist would disagree with you, but that’s OK – disagreement is very common among scientists.

      More advanced pondering (feel free to ignore):
      Is the existence of God something that can be proven by science? No, I don’t think so, because there is a very core idea in science that nothing can ever been proven – you can only ever disprove something.
      Can God’s existence be disproven?
      This concept of refutation (showing that something was wrong) was one of the key ideas of an important modern Philosopher of science called Karl Popper. He described theories as scientific ONLY if they could be disproven i.e. “fasifiable”.

      So, the hypothesis that “There is a god” is not testable, because you could use argument (1), above. So, the hypothesis “There is a god” is not a scientific hypothesis, and one that scientific methods can’t tackle.