Is Science Hard on God?

I had an long interchange with a recent visitor about climate change, and I have excerpted one part of that dialogue here (edited, enhanced, and slightly expanded for clarity). Science and math nerds: I’m taking liberties with the use of the word “proof” for accessibility reasons.

The Objection

The following basic objection was raised:

Science has spent years trying to prove the nonexistence of god. If god doesn’t exist, there is no need to try to prove he doesn’t…

My Response

There really isn’t a science journal out there dedicated to the field of disproving god. Nor does science in principle disprove the existence of anything. Science has the opposite bias. The positive claimant bears the burden of proof. If you claim the existence of a deity, the proof must come from you. Just to make sure this isn’t missed, and to underscore how baked in the burdens of proof are, consider this scenario…

You have lost your car keys. You think about where they could be. You conjure several possible explanations.

  1. They fell into the couch cushions.
  2. They are in your jacket pocket, hanging in the closet.
  3. They fell out in the parking lot and are on the ground by your car.
  4. Your neighbor took them from your counter top when he visited last.
  5. Aliens stole them.
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Third World of Texas

I sit in the dark, in my house, where we have been isolating since March of 2020 due to the pandemic. I look out over a six inch blanket of snow, in a city that rarely sees a single inch. We are now without water and mobile phone communication. The heat has held where we are. Power has been intermittent, but better than elsewhere. We had food reserves set aside and some firewood. My old generator failed to turn over and appears to be dead. Roads are closed and traffic cannot move. Highways are lined with stalled vehicles. Stores are shuttered. Supply trucks are largely not moving. And in what has become a chronic feature of daily reality, schools have all shut down, yet again.

My son is away at college, a few hundred miles from here in a neighboring city, and they have cut off power and water in the dorms. Food appears to be running out. No one really knows when any of it will come back. We try to troubleshoot his situation over failing mobile phone connections, to help him somehow get food and water without becoming stranded.

My wife’s brother lives in our city, and after 48 hours with no heat, his indoor temperature had fallen to 26 degrees. My own brother, steeled by years of far-north driving, braved the roads in the middle of the night, crossing the city to extract him. He was dropped at a house that still had heat — but they have now lost power and are relying on what firewood remains.

We and our neighbors have been left to vigilantly scan the local news, looking for early warnings of what services may fail next. And when they might be restored. This bleak preoccupation is necessary, so that we can perform the mental calculus of contingency planning, and so we can ration what remains.

This is the city of Austin, in the third world country of Texas, USA, in the year 2021.

I am tired, just being honest. Tired of living in crisis. Tired of living in a first world country that meets every crisis with third world performance. Tired of explaining to my overseas clients why the US appears so incompetent at everything.

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