I recently had the chance to comment on an atheist web site that prides itself on requiring testable hypotheses in order to gain any knowledge. I formed one of Alvin Plantinga’s arguments into hypothesis testing format. The point is that arguments for God’s existence are based on verifiable, testable data and that science assumes the validity of higher-ordered mental functions in the experimentation process. The comment is reproduced below with some modifications and some links included.
This will be an observational study using the data we find in the known universe. The null hypothesis is that our faculties of reasoning which allow us to develop higher-order beliefs arose from chance guided by natural selection. The alternative hypothesis is that our faculties of reasoning which allow us to develop higher-order beliefs arose from a process guided by God or an event brought about by God.
This is a valid way of describing the problem at hand. We have data in the known universe. We can observe or experience this data. We can then use this data to accept or reject the null hypothesis. (I will not go into all of the philosophical assumptions inherent in a test of this nature, but I reserve the right to do so in future discussion.)
First, we must assume that our reasoning faculties are valid in order to pursue the test. We are dealing with higher-order beliefs, those not related to survival. We are reasoning about those beliefs. Our mental faculties must be assumed from the get go to form and execute the experiment. We assume these higher order functions every time we even discuss these issues.
Second, the null hypothesis would require us to assume that some form of evolutionary process brought about by random mutations and guided by natural selection developed mental faculties capable of accurate higher-order beliefs. There is no guarantee that evolutionary processes would lead to our faculties of reasoning. We are only guaranteed that the mental faculties we have are capable of reasoning which would enable our survival based on natural selection. (Evolution does not “care” whether we flee from the tiger because we think it will eat us or because we think tigers look better from a distance. It just “cares” whether we flee from the tiger.)
Third, an intelligent being could account for our existing metal faculties. This being could have created us in such a way as to allow for us to process information about higher-order issues. This being could have the intelligence to design a brain and mind that can accurately determine the truth or falsehood of higher-order beliefs and the power to create what it designed. (It should also be noted that designing and creating are powers most often associated with personhood.)
The null hypothesis is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Therefore we reject the null and accept the alternative.
This argument is cogent and based on the data we observe in the universe and in our own self-awareness. We can explore similar arguments that allow for proofs of God’s logic, power, and even a form of freedom of choice; but we should stick with the argument at hand for the time being. We have an intelligent, purposeful and powerful being that created our minds to know the world in all of its splendor.