March 8, 2009
Every now and again I meditate on the fact that the atheist / naturalist / materialist position cannot be empirically vindicated. By atheist / naturalist / materialist position, I mean the Epicurean idea that death entails the complete and final cessation of consciousness – that after we die, there will be no more thought, no more experience, no more anything.
One of the many disadvantages of this world view is that no other option can potentially befall it other than falsification. That is to say, even if this position is correct, we can never prove it, for how could we ever be conscious of the cessation of consciousness to prove that such was indeed the case? You need consciousness to prove anything, and indeed, the atheist / naturalist / materialist position cannot be empirically vindicated. It can only prove false, because if even one iota of consciousness continues in any form after death, the idea is effectively bunk.
And so the challenge is for any atheist, naturalist or materialist to satiate my curiosity by reasonably or at least politely answering the following questions: Why believe in an idea whose only possible empirical verification is disproof? What of the hypocrisy in committing yourself to a position that claims to rely on proof as the highest measure of truth when the position itself cannot possibly be proven?