Monday, April 23, 2012

Proving a Negative: Superman, Flying Saucers and God Don't Exist

Here's what gets me.

One of the basic tenets of logic is "You cannot prove a negative."

For example, you cannot prove there is no God, flying saucers don't exist or Superman doesn't exist, according to the philosophers, psychologists and logicians.

Not so, say I!

Of course you can prove a negative, as long as you establish agreed-upon ground rules for the premises, the statements of facts or suppositions made or implied as a basis of argument. For example, "If A equals B, and C equals B, then C equals A."

If premises "(A equals B) and (C equals B)" are "true," then the conclusion "C equals A" is also true.

For example, "If (2 times 3) equals (6), and (3 times 2) equals (6), then (3 times 2) equals (2 times 3)."

"If Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, and if you were born in 1950, then you are a Baby Boomer."

Now, back to God, flying saucers and Superman.

Can we prove they exist? Sure. All we have to do is get God to appear before us and some corroborating witnesses, coax a flying saucer to land in our backyard and take an irrefutable photograph of it and make Superman take off his glasses and fly faster than a speeding bullet, do something more powerful than a locomotive and leap a tall building in a single bound.

Can we prove that they do not exist? Sure, too. All we have to do is agree to the premises and then prove it with logic.

Now, we know that in one sense all three do exist, because a great deal has been written about them and a lot of people believe in them. One even has his own sequence of films, a couple of television series and a comic book to proclaim his existence.

So, instead of proving they do not exist, we need to prove that they are not real and do not exist outside our imaginations.

Well, we know who created Superman, because they have admitted it, and we have even seen Superman die and be reborn at the whims of his current comic-book owners.

Rather than use a negative in our proof, we need to rephrase the premises and conclusion to allow a positive conclusion.

"If Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster admit they created Superman and everyone agrees Superman is imaginary, then Superman is imaginary." Conclusion? Superman does not exist, regardless of all the literature about him and all the children who believe in him.

Flying saucers are trickier. We know the date of the first, most famous sighting and who reported it (although some believers claim the Bible even has sightings recorded in it, such as Ezekiel's "wheel"), and there have been countless sightings since then, sometimes with physical "evidence" and many so-called "abductions." But we have no physical evidence that when examined by everyone is convincing enough for everyone to conclude "Flying saucers are real."

"If we admit that many people with vivid imaginations create stories about observed or unobserved phenomena for their personal or financial gain and no one has ever produced any physical evidence of flying saucers that has withstood repeated, scientific examination, then flying saucers are imaginary."

Conclusion? Flying saucers don't exist, regardless of all the literature about them and all the people who believe in them.

God is even trickier. We know that primitive societies create a supreme being to worship and shamans establish rules of conduct for society to follow and sometimes to provide for the shaman's personal or financial gain, we know that all the major religions cannot be worshipping the same God and we know that no one has ever produced any physical evidence of God that has withstood repeated, scientific examination.

"If we admit that anyone can create a story about 'God' based solely on belief for personal or financial gain and if everything that has happened in the past and is happening today makes more sense without a God than with one, then God is imaginary."

Conclusion? There is no God, regardless of all the literature, people who believe and atrocities created in God's name.

William of Occam, the great Franciscan scholastic philosopher, stated that all unnecessary facts in a subject being analyzed are to be eliminated. In other words, if there are more than one explanation for a phenomenon, the simplest explanation is more likely.

Conclusion? Superman, flying saucers and God don't exist.

I rest my case.

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