And if not — does that make our atheism close-minded and dogmatic?
There’s been an interesting debate lately in the atheist blogosphere. (The media will no doubt point to it as a sign of a terrible schism in the so-called New Atheist movement; but really, it’s been a very friendly and civil conversation so far, among people who are fundamentally allies.) The debate revolves around whether there’s any possible evidence that could convince atheists to change their minds… and if not, whether that makes their atheism an unshakable article of faith rather than a reasonable, evidence-based conclusion.
PZ Myers, of the famed Pharyngula blog (almost certainly the most widely-read of all atheist blogs), recently asserted that he had made up his mind. The case for atheism was just too devastating, and at this point, no possible evidence could ever convince him that any religion was correct. Jerry Coyne (author of Why Evolution Is True, the book and the blog) has expressed strong disagreement. He thinks atheism is falsifiable — and he thinks that it should be. If there is no possible evidence that would convince us God was real, he argues, not even the most wildly ludicrous hypothetical chain of events you could dream up, then atheists really would be just as close-minded as believers claim. The debate between Coyne and Myers has extended its tendrils throughout the atheist blogosphere… so I’m getting in on the action.
I’ve written at length about how atheism is, and should be, falsifiable. I’ve even gone out on a limb, in this very publication, about what exact evidence would persuade me that God was real. And after reading Myers and Coyne and a whole lot of other atheists in this debate, and after thinking about it at some length, I’ve reached two conclusions:
1) I don’t agree with PZ.
2) I think PZ makes some seriously important points.
I don’t ultimately agree with him, but the questions he raises are making me re-think my position on this question.
Thus begins my latest piece on AlterNet, Can Atheism Be Proven Wrong? To find out where I stand in the Myers/ Coyne debate — and how I’ve re-thought my position on what religion would have to do to prove atheism wrong — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!