The Predictive Power of “God” as Hypothetical Posit

“Since the one who says something like ‘There is a good God’ does not thereby predict any occurences in the worldother than those expected also by one who says, ‘There is no God,’ or even by one who says, ‘There is a malicious God,’ he does not by his utterance communicate to me any information about what is in fact so. Such utterances are informationally empty; and since they pretend to communicate information, are to be rejected as pseudo-propositions” (Jenson, Knowledge, p. 101).

Jenson here teases out the logic of a parable famously offered by John Wisdom on the seeming vacuity of religious discourse — if it doesn’t posit claims about events in the world that cannot equally be explained by the very opposite hypothesis, what good is it as a hypothesis? Does it have any explanatory power?

That is, “If all possible states of affairs are consistent with an utterance — and those about God seem to be held by believers in just this way — then how does that utterance assert anything?” (102)

This parable, of course, assumes a world in which most people do not see miracles. Not having seen many myself, I suppose I shouldn’t be overly critical of that premise. But it does rather seem to stack the deck in favor of the atheist.

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