The Hypothetic Method and “The God Hypothesis”
A hypothesis is a foundational premise to be built upon.
How science normally precedes:
Observation, Hypothesis, Prediction, Testing, Verification/Modification, Repeat
This is the hypothetic approach.
Potential dangers of hypotheses:
1) We tend to select evidence that supports our hypotheses and ignore evidence that militates against it.
2) There is a danger of circularly “proving” what was the foundational assumption already.
1) A God exists who created the universe
2) The universe exists.
3) Therefore it must have had a creator (God exists).
The above example is not a valid use of the hypothetic method, but abandoning the method and going the philosophical route with premise 2 and 3 is the ontological argument, which can be useful.
1) Science is the study of the physical universe.
2) Science produces no evidence for the existence of the supernatural.
3) Therefore supernatural (non-physical) entities do not exist.
The hypothesis above has already excluded non-physical entities before reaching the same idea in the conclusion.
A related hazard is the “hidden hypothesis” whereby an otherwise invalid argument is bolstered by an unstated assumption.
Hidden: Nothing has objective reality that cannot be experienced by our natural senses.
2) Science is the use of our natural senses to study objective reality.
3) Science produces no evidence for the existence of non-natural entities.
4) Non-natural entities have no objective reality.
The hidden hypothesis tries to make science the study of the whole of reality, so anything unobservable by science is not reality.
Logical positivism: claims that what cannot be verified by science has no reality, and implies that in studying the material universe science actually encompasses all legitimate knowledge.
The Hypothesis of God
There is nothing to stop us from advancing the “hypothesis of God” in which we assume that God exists and see where it leads.
This is different from historical theology, which contains philosophical arguments:
Ontological argument: The existence of the universe points to God’s existence.
Cosmological argument: (Thomas Aquinas) Since every effect has a cause, the universe itself must have a cause, and God is that first cause.
Teleological argument: The argument from design. The universe has the appearance of purposeful design; therefore it must have had a designer.
Moral argument: The existence of human morality points to a transcendent moral source.
All of these philosophical arguments, even if successful, end with a “lowest common denominator God” – it doesn’t encompass all that God is. The God hypothesis allows us to presuppose anything about God that we want to and see where it leads.
In the philosophical approach, God is the endpoint. In the hypothetic approach, he is the beginning.
No hypothesis can be pronounced a failure unless it is first stated and then tested. So to consider the God hypothesis is a rational approach. But what is being meant by “God” must be defined, because different people mean different things when they use the term.
The hypothesis of God means that the assumption “God exists” is a starting point for enquiry of all kinds – historical, theological, scientific, aesthetic, and more. It can be tested by all kinds of human observations, not just science alone.
The Bible itself begins with the assumption God exists: Gen 1:1