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Science, Confirmation, and the Theistic Hypothesis: Abstract


This thesis examines various attempts to construe theism as an explanatory hypothesis and to defend it with arguments similar to those employed in the confirmation of scientific hypotheses. It is the aim of this work to show that such a construal fails to confirm theism and in actuality leads to its disconfirmation.

The first chapter argues that theism is inevitably reduced to pseudoscience if it is placed in direct competition with scientific theories. This is illustrated by the example of the “scientific” creationists, who attempt to support theism by placing it in opposition to evolutionary theory. It is argued, contrary to the claims of some recent philosophers of science, that a clear distinction can be drawn between science and pseudoscience. Demarcation criteria are developed and employed to show why theism cannot be a strictly scientific hypothesis.

The second and third chapters examine the attempts of George Schlesinger and Richard Swinburne to produce inductive reformulations of traditional theistic arguments. Their attempts to apply confirmation theory in support of the theistic hypothesis are presented and criticized. It is concluded that the principles of confirmation theory are very unlikely to land much support to the theistic hypothesis.

The remainder of the thesis asks whether arguments for the disconfirmation of theism can be provided. The fourth chapter examines a number of arguments against the miraculous. It is argued that, though it is very unlikely that miracles could receive confirmation sufficient to convince skeptics, no cogent anti-theistic argument can be based on a critique of the miraculous. The final chapter develops an hypothesis-disconfirming version of the problem of evil. It is shown how evil serves as a counterexample to the theistic hypothesis and how two recent attempts to produce adequate theodicies fail. The thesis concludes with some reflections on the consequences of theism and naturalism.


This thesis is dedicated to my father, who taught me that the best kind of knowledge to have is that which is learned for its own sake. It is also dedicated to my mother, who taught me that even the largest task can be accomplished if it is done one step at a time.


Dr. Carlos G. Prado has been the ideal thesis supervisor. His sage advice, insightful criticisms, and patient encouragement aided the writing of this thesis in innumerable ways. I would also like to thank Dr. J.E. Bickenbach whose steadfast support of this project was greatly needed and deeply appreciated.

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