Some of you may know Tim Martin of The Floating Lantern. He is an Atheist and I usually follow his interesting posts. In here, he posted about falsifiability and the speech that The Thinking Atheist gave about none falsifiability of religious claims. Tim in his post here has rightfully pointed out that religious claims are none falsifiable:
He has written: “In each case down the line, the requirements are relaxed for what state of affairs would lead to the conclusion that God is good. By the time you get to the third scenario, you’re confronted with the fact that an innocent boy is dead, and God still gets credit for being good. At this point you have to admit that the statement has no requirements on its being true at all. It’s simply true no matter what happens- and so, what does it even mean to say that God is good? Apparently it means that the world will go on as it does. Your children might get shot in the street. Or they might not.”
True, but I thought the following part should be added to that, in order to answer where we would like to go with this?
As many of you may have heard, falsifiability is the criterion of scientific knowledge. No, not exactly; But for the sake of the argument, and since it seems irrelevant to this discussion, for now I put aside it’s problems (logical, philosophical and historical). I may talk about them in another post.
If something is not falsifiable, it neither means that it is meaningless, nor it means that it is necessarily untrue; it means that we cannot determine whether it is true or not, with a scientific method.
Now, why none falsifiable things are not meaningless? The reason is, criterions of meaning could be proven to have philosophical and logical problems, problems so intense that make them practically meaningless! Yes, many of them have proven to be self refuting, including the famous Verification Principle of logical positivism, the dead school of philosophy of science.
The main thing is, Popper realized that his principle of falsification (didn’t I say? Yes, he was the first to promote it against Logical Positivism), cannot and should not have the same problem. You see, aside from being self-refuting, many thing are not falsifiable: Music, literature, art and maybe even social sciences (to some extent). How could we suggest that they are meaningless?! I personally not only enjoy music a lot, but also know many meaningless words that only find meaning in the context of their literature. I wonder how many people know what “Upsilamba” means, Or have even heard it?
Of course not every none falsifiable is meaningless, therefore, Popper wrote:
“Note that I suggest falsifiability as a criterion of demarcation, but not of meaning. Note, moreover, that I have already (section 4) sharply criticized the use of the idea of meaning as a criterion of demarcation, and that I attack the dogma of meaning again, even more sharply, in section 9. It is therefore a sheer myth (though any number of refutations of my theory have been based upon this myth) that I ever proposed falsifiability as a criterion of meaning. Falsifiability separates two kinds of perfectly meaningful statements: the falsifiable and the non-falsifiable. It draws a line inside meaningful language, not around it.” (You can see the book in pdf here, the point is made on page 18 as a note at the end of the page)
Ok, how about the truth? As I pointed out, falsifiability criterion of knowledge is suppose to show us what cannot be determined by scientific method to be false. Logically speaking, we cannot derive the conclusion of falsehood simply out of not being able to determine the truth. It would be a logical fallacy, appealing to ignorance, which by the way religious people like a lot (including creationists).
Therefore, whatever none falsifiable is not necessarily untrue.
What can we say from religion being none falsifiable? The following: It’s not scientific. Ok, but what makes it different from literature, or art?
It is interesting, that we understand, it seems to a great deal, that our understanding of art or literature is “ours”. We know that other people are entitled to their own realization of what is good music, and what is readable literature. But how is it, that we do not realize this for religion? (The answer might be in the gathering of the crowds, we feel maybe a sense of belonging, a sense of safety within that mass of people. But this is for another post)
Aside from that, religion makes claims that no art ever does. They make the claim that they know the key to life and death itself. They claim they are moral compasses, and so, they have a program for a meaningful life. What they do, is they make people forget how idealistic they are. They make people believe in them, and believe in them as absolute truth that no one can or should challenge. And so, people are not be able to see the consequences of those beliefs.
And that’s a huge thing: Beliefs have consequences. Music is not a belief, nor is art. Literature in its artistic form is not a belief either. But religion is “made” of beliefs, and the consequences of those are not just in one’s head, but in reality of the world. And what heinous consequences they are…
The upside is, none falsifiable claims have rivals just like themselves: Which Gods do you think are true? Here are just a few: Ra, Isis, Osiris, Set (Egyptian); Odin, Thor, Baldur, Loki (Scandinavian); Zeus, Hera, Prometheus (Creator of humankind in Greek mythology), Uranus, Gaia, (and many more, Greek gods), Allah; Jehovah and so on…
And just by raising the matter of probability, what are the chances that one God is the rightful God, assuming there is one?!