Science can be seen as a method of creating reasoned knowledge through reliance on evidence, incredulous scepticism and human imagination. Each of these has its own function within the knowledge-creating methods of science. Evidence is probably the most easily recognised cornerstone of science, as evidence directs our thinking and grounds our area of scope. Imagination, perhaps the least recognised of these cornerstones, is required to join the dots of evidence together to form a narrative; without imagination each piece of evidence stands alone and would fail progress or give predictions. Imagination is required for making useful sense of the evidence we have. Here, we must be use to reign in our imagination so that we use the minimal number of lines to connect your evidence, to produce the most minimal narrative to explain the evidence; anything else would be overly creative. Imagination is also required in building and designing experiments in all part of science; here we want a little more creativity, but it can never really uncouple from logic. Incredulous scepticism is also highly important. It cannot be too high, for fear of slipping into solipsism; but it cannot be too low as to allow bad ideas slip through the gaps.
Good science, then, can be depicted as a series of sliders, like sliders on a volume control system, that reflect the traits and attributes of a methodology and its acceptance. For example, in the diagram below, the further to the left each slider is, the better the science is. Therefore the better the knowledge we derive from it is.
To better express what each of these sliders might look like, we’re going to have a look at where each slider belongs in the “scientific” approach to claiming that a God exists. Starting with imagination, we can unpick elements of the God proposal that rely so heavily on new existence and therefore heavily on imagination.
God is unlike anything we know or experience. If the God hypothesis were correct it would involve a new type of existence: one not dependent on matter, energy, thought or the interaction of any of them. God would be pure, independent, immaterial thought. Essentially, a new type of existence would have to be intellectually permitted to make room for a God. So unlike material or conscious existences that we know of an experience, God would be a stand alone and new fashion of being.
There is an irony here in that creationists then refuse to offer imagination to join the dots of the phylogenetic tree, fossil records or biogeography, and many other religious people make similarly limited assumptions about other scientific models that aren’t congruent with their religion.
Not only is the level of evidence low, it is getting lower. Coupled with an excessive imagination, all gaps in knowledge could once be twisted to be evidence for a God. After all, how else do you suppose to explain the diversity of life, without some method of evolution? Such a question couldn’t be answered and was once used to twist a God conclusion into the science. However, that opportunity evaporated with the discovery and subsequently relentless evidence in support of Darwinian evolution. Similar things are happening now in cosmology and cosmogony. Although it is true that we do not absolutely know where our universe came from, increasingly plausible answers are being found. From a new definition of “nothing” to eternal inflation, models without a God keep appearing and so the evidence for a God continues to recede.
You’ll notice the dial doesn’t indicate no evidence for God. There is some, but it’s poor: there will alway be a frontier to science with questions we don’t have full answers to, yet. And there is the frontier that religious “evidence” loses a little of every generation, but still insists on standing (like a house on a cliff’s edge).
Lastly, scepticism. And it follows that if the evidence is poor and the conclusion relies on outlandish and extreme imagination then the believers are not showing a proper level of scepticism:
Really, given that we are used to hearing that this is a matter of faith, we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that God is not given any level of scepticism. Believers simply don’t ponder how compatible their God is with the overwhelming majority of evidence from our experiences and science; neither do they wonder the likelihood that today religion has it right when it has a history of losing so much ground.