A Scientific Question? Part 1
The question “Does God exist?” has generally been considered to be a philosophical question. It has, in fact, generally been considered to be a paradigm case of a philosophical question.
However, some people believe that science has much to contribute towards answering this question, and many people believe that philosophy has not only failed to provide an answer to this question, but that there is little or no hope that philosophy will provide an answer to this question in the coming decades or centuries. Thus, the claim that science has much to offer us on this matter is of significant interest.
In his best-selling book The God Delusion (2006), Richard Dawkins argues that atheism is highly likely to be true, i.e. that it is highly improbable that God exists. But Dawkins is not a philosopher, and he believes that he has presented a scientific argument against the existence of God. Furthermore, Dawkins plainly asserts that “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis, like any other” and that “God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe…”(TGD, p.50)
About the alleged resurrection of Jesus, Dawkins asserts that the “methods we should use to settle the matter…would be purely and entirely scientific methods.” (TGD, p.59). He makes this claim in the context of a general discussion about the relevance of science to the evaluation of religious beliefs, so Dawkins would presumably be willing to make the same assertion about the question “Does God exist?” That is to say, he would hold that the “methods we should use to settle the matter” of the existence or non-existence of God would be “purely and entirely scientific methods”. If so, then it would appear that Dawkins holds the view that the question “Does God exist?” is strictly a scientific question and is not a philosophical question.
Is Dawkins correct here? Is the question “Does God exist?” a scientific question? Is it a question that we should attempt to resolve by the use of methods that are purely and entirely scientific methods? If so, does this mean that many have been mistaken in holding this question to be a philosophical question? Alternatively, is this a philosophical question that science can help to answer?
In order to evaluate Dawkins view of the nature of the question “Does God exist?” we need to first have a clear understanding of the key concepts:
– What is a “scientific question”?
– What are “scientific methods”?
– What is a “philosophical question”?
– Do some well-known questions fall into both categories?
– Is it possible for a question to fall into both categories?