God: Prediction Fail and Ad Hoc Explanation

Every Great Oz needs curtains and smoke, and thus it is that theists must place soft focus on the greatest Oz of all, the word God, and the predicates of God–because the Great Oz we call God is, essentially, a ghost bird, an emperor with no clothes, a shell game, a mirage.

Religion can’t function without God as Mirage, for God must recede from any disconfirming evidence.

But how is this recession of God accomplished? How does God stay safely hidden from empiricism?

By ad hoc explanation. It is religion’s great escape hatch, warding off all appeals to evidence and falsification.

Ad hoc explanation is what one does to save a favored thesis (in this case, the thesis that God exists; that God is love). When a surprising data point comes in, such as the Holocaust, which might appear to disconfirm the thesis that God exists and is love, the theist’s intellectual playing field has to shift from claims vulnerable to prediction and falsification to claims grounded in mere coherence, the logically possible, and the non-falsifiable.

That is, to metaphysics untouched by reality testing.

Like a hall of mirrors, once you enter the labyrinth of metaphysics, the logically possible, and ad hoc justifications, you can get lost in there. Abandon Occam’s razor, ye who enter here.

For example, take this simple, simple sentence: God loves all people. What could be more plain in meaning? But if you take the sentence seriously, and try to predict something based on it, then a person who knows there is such a thing as, say, The Ten Commandments, but doesn’t know what’s in it, will make the following quite reasonable prediction based on the straightforward notion that God loves all people: “God loves all people, therefore, obviously, among The Ten Commandments there must be prohibitions on rape and slavery. If the Bible is God’s word, and God loves all people, these prohibitions could not possibly fall beneath His (Her?) circle of supreme moral concern. They’re in there. I know they will be!”

Then the believer looks in The Ten Commandments and discovers–neither of them! Prediction fail!

The ad hoc mirage engine now has to kick in. It functions to shift the goal post of what would constitute disconfirming data for the claim that God loves all people to ad hoc rationalizations like these: “God loves all people, but works in mysterious ways!” or “God’s ways are not your ways!”

Now, strictly speaking, it’s logically possible that God loves all people and works in mysterious ways, and it’s logically possible that God loves all people and has ways that are not our ways, but notice how the premises necessarily multiply in the service of the favored thesis. We now have to believe that God loves all people and swallow a series of ad hoc premises.

We must enter the realm, in other words, of confirmation bias and imprecision of definition (of words like God and love).

So whatever the ad hoc explanation is for why rape and slavery didn’t make it into God’s Top Ten, it fuzzies up God–the very definition of God, and God’s predicates. What is God? What does it mean for God to love? The sentence, “God loves all people,” suddenly loses plain meaning–and so much so that one begins to wonder if the sentence has any meaning at all.

Which brings us to Orwell. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. God is love.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in atheism, edward feser, God, philosophy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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