Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Deism


After yesterday's post, one might reasonably ask: If Martin Gardner believes in a personal God and the afterlife, with admittedly no evidence, because it makes him feel good, by what right does he scorn people who without evidence believe in astrology or homeopathy, say, for the same reason?

In Gardner's defense, the situations are not the same.

Astrology and homeopathy both presuppose observable effects in the world of phenomena. Supposedly, people's personal characteristics are manifestly determined by their birth signs, and homeopathic solutions sensibly alleviate afflictions. These are correlations that can be observed and tested, even aside from their theoretical improbability (even absurdity). Suffice it to say that every blind test of astrology and homeopathy has shown no statistically reliable correlations.

If Martin Gardner believed his personal God acted in the world, by answering prayers, say, or performing miracles, then his belief would indeed be equivalent to that of the astrologers and homeopaths. Double-blind tests of the efficacy of petitionary prayer have shown no positive correlations, and I know of no unambiguous or non-anecdotal evidence of miracles.

Gardner's faith is not even like belief in Russell's teapot, which does or does not exist in the world of searchable phenomena. As far as I can tell on the evidence of his autobiography, which includes discussion of such things, Gardner makes no claim that his God acts in the world in any perceivably miraculous way, nor does he believe the membrane between death and the afterlife is other than one-way permeable."

That is to say, he believes in things for which evidence has not been adduced in favor, and cannot be adduced against.

I'd say, "What's the point?" But since there is nothing we can logically argue over, to each his own. Martin, if you're in Heaven, send back a few new mathematical games. We'll recognize your inimitable touch.