Why does the Null Hypothesis demonstrate the non-existence of God?
Let us explore some critical thinking, used in the scientific method, which allows us to assess reality in a rational manner.
I would like to postulate four different claims.
1) A Baptist claims that God exists
2) My friend next door claims he bought a kitten
3) A Roman Catholic claims God exists.
4) My father claims he has a Loch Ness monster living in his garden pond.
Now ladies and gentlemen, is there any way that we can assess these four claims in a logical manner and decide, based on reason and evidence what claims are likely true, from those that are false? I believe so, and I would like the opportunity to demonstrate the Null Hypothesis which is an essential tool, if you want to be able to discern truth from falsehood.
Consider the idea that my father claims he has a Loch Ness monster. To most of you (I hope) this is a fairly extraordinary claim. Thus, you could reasonably expect some extraordinary evidence to support this claim. I might ask my father if I could come over and see this monster living in the pond at the bottom of his garden, so that I can verify this claim is true.
But ladies and gentlemen, what if my father says I would not be able to do this? It is very shy and only comes out when it feels safe in the presence of believers in the Great Loch Ness Monster. Instead he shows me a pile of dung, supposedly left behind, and asks that I use this as evidence for its existence.
I hope that most of you realise that in fact this is not an acceptable amount of evidence for an extraordinary claim. Most of us, including myself, would remain sceptical of my father’s claim and say, “there is no such thing as a Loch Ness monster” unless he provided some really good convincing evidence of its existence. The burden of proof, is in fact, on the shoulders of my father. It is absolutely correct to be able to say, there is no Lock Ness monster. Why? Because the default position that we take is to disbelieve a claim, unless it is backed by reason and evidence. This is called the Null Hypothesis - the pile of dung is not a clear demonstration of a Loch Ness monster.
What about my friend with the claim he has a new kitten. This is not an extraordinary claim. It’s pretty mundane, and in fact I would be prepared to believe him on his word. Why do I not insist on evidence that he has a kitten before believing him, unlike the Lock Ness Monster claim? Why do I not choose the null hypothesis, of disbelief unless he proves he has a kitten?
Simple, because evidence, is not only based on first person observation. I don’t actually need to see his kitten to have evidence that he has one. I already have past evidence, that humans like kittens. I already know that people buy kittens to keep as pets. I already have past experience of other people keeping kittens as pets. I know kittens indeed exist. I already have good evidence that a claim “I bought a kitten” is fairly normal, and does not violate anything that I already know about reality.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we don’t need to directly observe events to make reasonable predictions about what is actually true. The Null Hypothesis (my neighbour does not have a cat) is refuted here and the Alternative Hypothesis (my neighbour has a cat) is supported since there is sufficient evidence to lead a rational critical mind to draw a conclusion as to the positive (statistical) likelihood of the particular claim.
Now ladies and gentlemen, let’s review the last two claims. They sound almost identical, although they are actually two distinct claims. The claim by both parties, “God exists” is actually different, because both define God differently. One defines him as someone who created the earth in 6000 years, and therefore discounts evolution, and the other claims that they can actually convert molecules of wine and atoms of bread into blood and body of Christ. They overlap with many other claims of this deity, but there are salient differences so the claims can be rewritten as:
“A Baptist God exists” and “A Roman Catholic God exists”.
It should be clear to a rational critical mind that these two claims (that there is a supernatural being that created us and he defied the laws of physics with various miracles including the resurrection) are extraordinary. Thus it is reasonable, since these claims do violate my view of reality (no living human has met or seen evidence of someone who died and then lived again three days later) to expect extraordinary evidence to support the two distinct claims.
Thus the burden of proof is on either the Baptist or the Roman Catholic to provide extraordinary evidence. Ladies and gentlemen, it is perfectly acceptable for you to demand some evidence before you believe either of these two parties, or anyone else making a supernatural claim. The Null Hypothesis, that reality is not influenced by supernatural beings has to be refuted. The Alternative Hypothesis, that reality is influenced by supernatural beings has to be supported. The Null Hypothesis is the default position since it requires no work to demonstrate its veracity.
I am disappointed to find, however, much like the claim of my father that I must take a pile of dung as evidence, and I can only see the Loch Ness monster if I already believe, both groups of Christians here claim that the only evidence provided by the supposed most powerful force in the universe is in fact some copies of ancient texts dug out of the ground, and to find evidence for him, you have to believe unquestioningly, and only then through faith it will become apparent he exists.
Well I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, I find this dishonest. There I said it. It is dishonest to suggest this.
Instead, until the burden of proof is met, by a believer postulating one of the many forms and definitions of God, I have to choose the default Null Position and remain sceptical and a disbeliever. I hope you can see why you should too.
I would like to thank John Williams in helping me write this article. John has a BSc Hons in Geology and BCom and helped me to clarify my thoughts in a scientific manor. He is a very clear thinker and I am grateful to have been able to take some of his time, which he graciously set aside for me.