Re: Paper-tigers

William B. Provine (
Mon, 06 Apr 1998 12:15:18 +0100

Dear Keith,

Now we are really getting somewhere on the question of science, what we know right
now, what we may know in the future, and what we can never know. What is beyond
science right now may be very important to us, but it lacks explanation (the
relation of DNA or RNA to heredity, for example).

You respond: even what we do not know now may in time also have scientific
explanation, but is the same in principle as what we know now. Your God would not
suffer at all.

I agree completely and we are on the same track. I may think that what we call god
is actually a big hunk of moldy green cheese. This god is totally invisible like
yours. Can you disprove my contention? The problem with your approach is that one
can insert any god, force, or food at all. My reaction to this line of
argumentation is to suspect, as a null hypothesis, no gods at all exist. I am
prepared to be proved wrong, and will shout mea culpas to all if that happens.

More important than anyone in changing the null hypothesis from deities to none at
all is Darwin. That as why I argue that evolutionary biology, as little as we know
of it even now, is crucial for changing the null hypothesis to no gods at all.

You are right that my extension of the null hypothesis above to atheism is a leap
of faith. Not all leaps of faith are the same size. I have a faith that the sun
will arise tomorrow and bring daylight where I live. Of course, I have lots of
experience to use for inference. But still the inference is a leap of faith. Your
leap of faith is to a God who gives life after death, gives an ultimate foundation
for ethics, ultimate meaning in life, and free will. I respect that belief but
cannot believe it myself. Instead, I make my leap of faith, a small one, following
the null hypothesis and its extension to atheism.

Best wishes, Will