Theism and other minds: On the falsifiability of non-theories

Topoi 14 (2):149-160 (1995)
In this paper I consider three necessary conditions for a proposition counting as a theory: that the proposition be posited for its explanatory power; that it derive its feasibility from the extent to which it provides such explanatory power; and that it be empirically falsifiable. I then argue that some propositions might fail as theories because they do not satisfy the first two conditions, yet still satisfy the third condition. Such propositions I label falsifiable non-theories. I offer folk psychology (the proposition that beliefs, desires, and other intentional phenomena exist and play essential motivational and causal roles in many human actions) as a paradigm example of a falsifiable non-theory. I then argue that theism is in an analogous position. Like folk psychology, it fails to satisfy the first two conditions above for most theists. However, the empirical implications that theism has do make it susceptible to falsification. I demonstrate such falsifiability by an extreme scenario from Keith Yandell. Then I argue that recent work by Paul Draper demonstrates how a well articulated empirical argument from evil might threaten just such falsification.
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