Thursday, April 12, 2018


Many atheists take the position that the only evidence for something is empirical evidence. If something is empirically indetectable, then there's no reason to think it exists. Hence, there's no reason to think God exists, if he subsists outside the space-time continuum. 

Let's take a comparison. According to the B-theory of time, the entire timeline actually exists. Past, present, and future actually exist. I'm just going to use that for illustrative purposes. I'm not going to make a case for the B-theory of time, although there are some good philosophical arguments for that position. For discussion purposes, let's grant that the B-theory of time is correct. And that's neutral in terms of scientism or empiricism. 

Suppose I'm a high school student, sitting in the cafeteria during lunch. The student body undergoes a complete turnover every three years. My classmates occupy the cafeteria. I can see them from where I sit.

But suppose I have a visor that enables me to see the past and future. Let's say my visor has a split-screen. And I can tune it to a particular year, past or present. Through my visor, I can see the last student body and the next student body, in addition to the present student body. They occupy the same cafeteria. They are compresent in the same cafeteria. 

Without my visor, I can only see classmates in my own timeframe. I can't detect the presence of the other classmates, past and future, even though every student body in the history of the school actually occupies that cafeteria at lunchtime. 

Same thing for football games. When I switch on my visor, I can see teams from different years superimposed on the same field–like a montage, with chronological layers. I can see fans from different years superimposed on the same stands. The same space is filled with people from past, present, and future. All of them are actually present at that exact same site, yet those outside my timeframe are indetectable without my special visor. 

So even when it comes to the issue of physical presence, of physical entities which occupy physical space, on a macroscopic scale, they can be right there, beside me, in front of me, behind me, and yet be invisible, inaudible, intangible. 

1 comment:

  1. Good point!

    Jumping off this good point, if the B-theory of time is correct, then ancient cities co-exist with modern ones. Tenochtitlan co-exists with Mexico City and bombed-out WWII cities co-exist with their modern counterparts. Likewise ancient flora and fauna with modern flora and fauna. Likewise pre-modern landscapes with modern ones (e.g. forested areas with deforested areas). And so on and so forth. In short, all sorts of physical entities (e.g. people, places, animals, plants) could be present but indetectable to us.

    So I suppose there's what's unobservable by unaided human senses but observable by instruments or other aids (e.g. subatomic particles). It's possible we could detect more entities or phenomena that we can't currently detect if we had better instruments or advanced technology. Yet, of course, just because we can't presently detect certain entities or phenomena doesn't necessarily mean they don't exist or don't exist until we can detect them. These could include indetectable physical entities or phenomena which have been there all along.

    Related, one could formulate a plausible and reasonable theory about the existence of indetectable entities based on detectable effects. That's what scientists have done in molecular and cellular biology (e.g. RNA, DNA, proteins, cancers) as well as particle physics (e.g. atomic and subatomic particles).

    Of course, an indetectable non-physical entity or phenomena could be: the existence of other minds (e.g. the problems of p-zombies) or mathematical numbers and laws. These could exist outside the spacetime continuum too.

    And even on the air waves, there are multiple signals simultaneously sent out, but typically we only tune into one of the signals. The other signals are indetectable to us, not because they don't exist, but because we haven't tuned into the other signals, but because we have chosen to focus on a singular signal at the exclusion of the others. Similarly with the electromagnetic spectrum. Our naked eye can detect visible (white) light in the range of 400–700 nm, but not other wavelengths. Not because other wavelengths don't exist, but because our senses aren't able to pick them up.