Back on March 3, Jerry Coyne was complaining about the existence of some new religious apologetics book. He wrote:
Do we really need to read all these books, which are appearing at an alarming rate? Is there really going to be new arguments for God in them? It appears that Aczel’s book, based on the statement that it shows “that there’s still much space for the Divine in the universe,” is merely a reiteration of God-of-the-Gaps arguments. To quote Ingersoll, what we understand is science; what we don’t understand is God.
Coyne dismisses Amir Aczel’s book because it appears to be “ merely a reiteration of God-of-the-Gaps arguments. “ That is, once an argument is pegged as a “God-of-the-Gaps” argument, it is dead because, as all serious thinkers know, God-of-the-Gaps arguments are arguments from ignorance and have no place in scientific thinking.
He then goes on to write:
Of course science can’t completely disprove God in either a logical or absolutist sense: that’s not the way science works. And of course we’ll never understand everything. Dick Lewontin (my Ph.D. advisor) told me the other day that the human race would go extinct before we finally learned how our brains work, and he may be right. So if you want to find God in consciousness, for instance, then there’s plenty of time to do that. But it’s a losing strategy, and one that doesn’t even convince many theologians.
So even if we could never come up with a scientific explanation for the origin of consciousness, that failure to close the gap is not evidence for God. It’s a “losing strategy.”
then he continues:
But we have disproven God in the same sense we’ve disproven Santa Claus, the Loch Ness monster, and Bigfoot. Extensive observation of the world looking for evidence of the divine has not, as with these other cases, turned up any evidence. That is “proof” in the vernacular (though not mathematical) sense. It’s “proof” in the sense that Anthony Grayling uses it: “Would you bet your house on the truth of a proposition?” If so, consider it proven.
So God has been “disproven” as a consequence of not turning up “any evidence.” I’m not sure how a lack of evidence for X disproves the existence of X, as that sounds like……an argument from ignorance. So, the argument from ignorance is a valid argument as long as it is disproving God?
And just what would this “evidence” look like if it had turned up? What kind of “evidence” was supposed to exist if God existed?
Lucky for us, Coyne tells us on March 18:
Indeed, tests of whether miracles occur (studies of the efficacy of intercessory prayer, investigations of supposed miracles like the Shroud of Turin, and so on) have always shown that God didn’t show up. But he could have: all he would have to do is, one night, to rearrange the stars in a pattern that spelled out “I am who I am” in Hebrew. Science would have a tough time explaining that one! There are innumerable phenomena that would, if verified, convince scientists that a god would exist. Sadly, none have occurred.
Ah, the LiteBrite demo! If God exists, He should have turned the stars into a huge LiteBrite screen and given us all a message. That would convince scientist Jerry Coyne. Or so he says.
But hold on. Not so fast there. Just how did scientist Jerry Coyne get from a cosmic LiteBrite demonstration to God’s existence? The only way to connect those dots is with the God-of-the-Gaps argument. Which is why Coyne notes, “Science would have a tough time explaining that one! “ Coyne would interpret a pattern of stars that spelled out “I am who I am” in Hebrew as a demonstration of God’s existence because science could not explain it. Coyne’s atheism is built on the “God-of-the-Gaps” argument and assumes its legitimacy , for without assuming the legitimacy of this argument, there is no way to get from any star pattern to the existence of God.
And it only gets worse.
Another atheist on Coyne’s blog dissented, commenting:
Not sure I’d find a message in the stars all that convincing: A far more likely explanation would be an advanced alien species with a somewhat warped [sic] sense of humour. Or… it would be a great way of softening us up for an invasion, whereby they could take over the earth and turn us all into batteries to power their evil machines.
This, of course, is the very same answer that Richard Dawkins gave. What this clearly shows is the subjective aspect of evidence: scientist Jerry Coyne would consider a LiteBrite demo in the sky as evidence for God, but scientist Richard Dawkins would not. Evidence is like beauty – it’s in the eye of the beholder.
Coyne responds and makes it even worse:
Well, maybe it would take more than one such “miracle” to convince people, but one reaches a point where one can accept a divine being PROVISIONALLY.
Huh? What kind of science is this? I fail to see the scientific logic that attributes one LiteBrite Demonstration to ETI and multiple such demonstrations to God.
Finally, y’gotta love the “provisionally” qualifier (in all caps). I think that was supposed to make it sound even more sciencey. But what does Coyne mean by provisional? Surely, a scientist like him cannot be satisfied stopping here. So that would lead to the next question any scientist would ask – “Dr. Coyne, while you provisionally believe that God was behind the LiteBrite demonstration, what data could we discover that would work to verify or falsify your hunch? And how would you go about gathering these data?”
So not only is atheism a subjective opinion, it is an opinion that is built upon the God-of-the-Gaps argument while criticizing others for using the God-of-the-Gaps argument.