Why should I be scared of being proved wrong?

FlashI was following a discussion earlier where the claim was made that science is increasingly getting stuck at certain points, various scientific theories are evidence-free, and that the discoveries of the next century will consign atheism to an insignificant rump, if not oblivion. That was meant to be a taunt, but it missed the mark in a big way.

The arguments entirely failed to convince me, but while I must confess that I’m not particularly keen on the idea that my search for answers might be taking me on a trajectory away from truth and towards some sort of epistemological dead end, I was surprised and slightly amused that atheists were expected to react badly to the idea that evidence might eventually prove them wrong.

Actually, that isn’t quite right – I should probably say that convincing evidence for some sort of creator/deity might come to light to substantiate religious claims. That might sound like an irrelevant distinction, but it’s fundamental to how people approach the issue.

I know very few atheists who dogmatically assert that there is definitely no God, but I know loads who would say the evidence is lacking or absent, or that there’s no good reason to believe the claims of religion. Unlike the stereotype of unbending religious faith, atheism is generally conditional on the evidence.

So sorry to the taunting apologists, but I don’t feel bothered by the idea that one day, there might be evidence that demonstrates my current beliefs to be mistaken. I’m where I am as a result of following the evidence, and if it takes me in a different direction, I’ll follow it there as well. And to be frank, any atheists who are bothered by that idea are doing it wrong.

Image courtesy of Prashant Jambunathan, used with permission

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About Recovering Agnostic

I'm Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis.

5 responses to “Why should I be scared of being proved wrong?”

  1. unkleE says :

    Interesting topic, and I find again that I mostly agree with you. We shouldn’t be afraid of the truth – although that is just theory. What if we are in the African jungle and hear a noise. We shouldn’t be afraid of finding out the truth of what caused the noise – except if its a lion!

    So as a christian, I have a lot to be afraid of if I find that that the truth is that there is no God – my whole life would have been based on a falsehood, and now I have lost my meaning, purpose and eternal life. The same is true for an atheist, because if she is wrong there is after all a God who may interfere! But of course, you are also right that if the truth is opposite of what we currently think, it is better to find out than remain ignorant.

    I think the definition of atheist is a vexed question. I understand the distinctions you make, but I find that many of those who say they simply lack belief in God argue as passionately as if they have a stronger opinion than that.

    Best wishes in following the evidence!

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      I find it interesting that you say they argue “as if” they have a stronger opinion. How would that difference be apparent? How strongly should one argue against weak or unconvincing apologetics?

      I like the analogy of homeopathy – there are no good reasons to believe that it works, and some pretty good ones for doubting it, but if any advocate of homeopathy were ever to provide genuinely robust evidence to support it, scientists would quickly attempt to replicate the experiment and if successful would then fall in behind it, even if it involved rethinking virtually our entire scientific knowledge. Until that robust evidence is offered, though, it’s not surprising if their rebuttals can appear quite short or impatient, because all the arguments have been covered over and over again, and the evidence remains as elusive as ever.

  2. thesauros says :

    I know loads who would say the evidence is lacking or absent”

    Other than a mathematically precise, life sustaining, moral and material universe that came into being out of literally nothing material. Other than that, atheists are probably right.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Sorry, you’re replying to an argument I’m not making, but every one of your points leads me to ask either “where did you get that from?” or “why would that conundrum be solved by the addition of God?”

  3. M. Rodriguez says :

    I think this is one of two arguments that I find most annoying for the existence of God (the other being morality), that argument that we don’t know and science does not means therefore a God must existence. It seems odd to me, that anyone would use Ignorance as proof of God.

    Ignorance is not proof;….its a lack of knowledge.

    Just because the answer eludes us NOW means NOTHING…..

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