In discussions with materialists here over the years, I’ve run into an assertion they make which (they think) is a real “gotcha!” moment for believers. “If the divine actually does interact with the physical, then clearly you would have empirical evidence (albeit secondary) of the spiritual realm. You don’t… therefore, the spiritual realm does not exist! QED!”
I’d like to raise this topic for discussion. What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Want to propose a different framework for the discussion?
However, this argument seems short-sighted on two counts:
- First, what I’ll call the “sighting the invisible man” problem
- Second, something I’ll label “the problem of merely physical artifacts”
(If there are standard terms for these in the literature, please let me know!)
In this post, I’ll tackle the first issue. If there’s interest, I’ll raise the second one in a subsequent post.
The first problem speaks directly to the materialist’s claim: if there really were spiritual beings who interacted with us, we’d be able to document these interactions, and since there is no documentation as such, then the claim is false. That seems short-sighted for a couple of reasons:
- inability to predict a-priori when these interactions will occur
- inability to predict what form these interactions will take (such that we might be prepared to measure them empirically)
Neither of these go to the materialist’s desired conclusion of “therefore it doesn’t exist”; rather, it just shows “we cannot reasonably hope to detect it a priori or measure it.”
Here’s the thought experiment: let’s suppose that you wish to prove to me that there’s an invisible man who exists. I ask you to prove it. (Let’s presume he’s smart enough not to walk into cloud of talcum powder or leave footprints on flour spilled on the floor.). At every point at which you attempt to prove his existence, I say “a-ha! no proof! Therefore, he doesn’t exist!”
And yet, the failure to provide empirical evidence doesn’t proceed from the non-existence of the phenomenon. Rather, it proceeds from the impossibility of predicting the occurrence. Every scientist knows that, if a valid hypothesis cannot be formed, there is no conclusion that can be reached! Yet, it seems that materialists want to say “absence of evidence is evidence of absence.”
What do you think?