God – By Jesús Zamora

This post is also available in: Spanish

In your blog you mention atheism several times. Do you think science and philosophy have anything to say in the debate about the existence of God?

Philosophy certainly has something to say, because it has been debating the matter for 2500 years. The question is whether what Philosophy says about it is reasonable or not, since evidently each philosopher has said different things. With regards to whether science has anything to say about this question, it depends on how it is posed. If we do so in terms of whether it’s possible to give a scientific proof of God’s existence -or his non-existence- then I think neither is. That is, science cannot find God’s existence the same way it can find, for instance, the existence of a certain chemical element. And it cannot proof non-existence in the same way it can proof the non-existence of a certain chemical element, for example between two such elements. So the existence or non-existence of God as a scientific discovery is something which lies beyond the grasp of science. However, what science can do are two interesting things. Firstly, showing that the supposition of God’s existence is not necessary for many of the things which had traditionally been explained through that supposition, that is, that certain reasons for the belief in God are no such reasons. That can be discovered by science. Secondly, it can also discover many of the causes why human beings have a tendency to accept God’s -or some supernatural being’s- existence. Combining these two empirical discoveries, which are legitimate, -that is, discoveries which show it’s not necessary to suppose God’s existence in order to explain certain things and empirical discoveries which show that it’s reasonable for beings like us to believe in God in certain circumstances, even without a scientific foundation for it- we have non-demonstrative but very powerful reasons to question God’s existence. That is, if the God hypothesis is unnecessary to explain what we supposedly want to explain with it and, on top of that, we can explain why people have a tendency to believe in God even if there isn’t one, we will have to suspect that belief does not correspond to reality.

In fact, a great deal of scientific progress has consisted of gradually dispensing with God as an explanatory mechanism. Until Kant, who tries to dispense with him for morality, when he creates an autonomous morality.

Well, Kant dispenses with God in the area of natural knowledge rather than in the area of ethical knowledge. In the area of ethical knowledge, God is at the end -for Kant- a postulate of reason, that is, it is true that he tries to give an autonomous justification to ethics, but he reaches the conclusion that his autonomous ethics is only possible if we assume that the world has been created by an infinitely benevolent being. Because, if we had implicit in us the desire to do good, but the world was made in such a way that there was no guarantee we could do so, that -Kant thinks – would be absurd. It would be absurd to have a being -such as us- in the universe who believes he or she has to do something that cannot be done. I agree with Kant that it may be absurd, but I don’t agree with the fact that it can’t be. That is, human beings may be absurd beings.

Maybe Kant re-introduces God that way with the same intention as Hobbes in the second part of his Leviathan, where he tries to prove that his absolutely materialistic postulates agree with the Bible, but that neither of them actually believed it.

It’s certainly possible. In fact, the influence of religious thinking in European history has been so strong that it’s empirically impossible to find out whether some of the things the authors back then said were said in order not to reject Christian religion or because they actually believed them. There is no situation in which we can judge how intellectually honest they were and we can’t even judge whether they were subject to some kind of mechanism of self-deception, due to the social situation they lived in.

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