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The falsification principle offers no real challenge to religious beliefs

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The falsification principle offers no real challenge to religious beliefs. In 1955 Flew introduced the falsification principle. Flew went on to say 'To state that something is the case is logically to imply that something else is not the case. We can find out the meaning of a statement by asking what would be compatible with its truth'. In simple terms, a believer's claims about God are only meaningful if the believer is willing to agree on what would cause those claims to be falsified. For example the claim 'God is good' is only meaningful if we are prepared to accept that the opposite may be true. Only if we acknowledge the reality, say, of evil and suffering and therefore the possibility, in principle at least, that God is not wholly good does the concept 'good' have any meaning. Flew went onto to say that religious language died the 'death of a thousand qualifications' as believers do not allow anything to count against their beliefs and they tend to keep qualifying belief's when anything appears to count against them. However, there were challenges put forward to the falsification principle, one of the key challengers was R.M Hare. Hare claimed that Flew was basically right about the falsifiability of religious beliefs; religious beliefs are not really cognitive assertions because they are not falsifiable, but wrong about the implications of this, as they are meaningful and important. ...read more.


Believers have faith and belief in their religious language and just because it cannot be verified or falsified does not mean it is meaningless. The whole point of belief and faith is to have faith and trust in god, and therefore believers do not allow evidence to undermine their faith. Someone who went along these lines was Basil Mitchell who argued that religious beliefs, which are cognitive assertions, are falsifiable in principle but not in practice. Believers are not, however, able to say precisely what would count as a falsification, which implies that in practice we may not be able to say with certainty whether such beliefs have been falsified. Richard Swinburne went on to say that there are statements that cannot be falsified, and yet we understand the meaning behind the statement. He went on use the example of the toys in the toy cupboard, we might not be able to falsify whether or not the toys move, but we still understand the idea of toys moving. Even though I feel that this challenge is quite successful towards the falsification argument I also do believe that it contains some flaws. Going back to the example of the toys in the toy cupboard, if this was the case then people all around the world could believe in absolute absurdity. ...read more.


In conclusion the challenges put forward by Hare, Mitchell and Swimburne towards the falsification principle would suggest that the falsification principle does not really offer any real challenge to belief. Overall I feel that Hare was very right in saying the falsification principle could not be used on religious statements as they are non cognitive, and also that religious language cannot make factual claims but it still has meaning, because it influences the way in which people look at the world. Also following in this line was R.B Braithwaite. I feel that R.B Braithwaite put forward a very strong argument in that religious language cannot be verified; people might understand stories and understand the morals behind them. Take for example the parables told by Jesus, Flew would say that these parables are meaningless because they cannot be falsified and the verification principle would say that meaningless because they cannot be verified by empirical methods, however believers would find these parables meaningful because the understand the true meaning behind them, and understand the morals behind them. Thus, I feel that the falsification principle does not provide real challenge to religious beliefs, because not only are religious statements non cognitive, so the falsification principle does not apply, but also because different people can take religious beliefs different. To some people religious beliefs do not have to be falsified in order for them to be meaningful. Neesha Parmar Miss Stanners ...read more.

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