I recently viewed Dr. David Wood’s video, Scooby-doo and the Case of the Silly Skeptic. The target of Wood’s criticism was Dr. Michael Shermer (pictured above), who defended a principle which he referred to as “Shermer’s Last Law,” in the course of a debate with Wood on October 10, 2016. According to this law, any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God. The reason is that technologically advanced aliens could easily produce effects that would look like miracles to us. As Wood puts it (paraphrasing Shermer’s argument): “They might be able to cure diseases instantly, or regenerate limbs, or change the weather. These kinds of things would seem miraculous to human beings, and so from our perspective, aliens who could do these kinds of things would be indistinguishable from God.” So if we saw something miraculous, how would be know that it’s God and not aliens?
In the debate, Wood fired back at Shermer, asking: “If you did want to know that God exists, wouldn’t you want some method to figure out if He exists, something that would lead you to the truth about that? According to Dr. Shermer, there can be no such method, because [for] anything God could possibly do, you could say, ‘Aliens did it.’ … So it’s built into the methodology that you could never know whether God exists or not. If it’s built into your methodology [that you can] never know the truth about something, then I have to question the methodology.” In his video, Dr. Wood added: “If somebody says to me, ‘Prove to me that statement X is true,’ but an examination of his methodology shows that he won’t allow anything to count as evidence that statement X is true, how can we take that demand for proof seriously?” Finally, Wood administered his coup de grace against those who demand proof of God’s existence: “When I use an atheist’s methodology against him, he can’t even prove his own existence,” since advanced aliens could make me believe that I am arguing with an atheist when in fact I’m not, simply by messing with my brain.
Wood also attacked Shermer’s hypocrisy for asking why God doesn’t detect amputees: even if He did, Shermer still wouldn’t be convinced of God’s existence. And how reasonable is it, asks Wood, for Shermer to believe the evolutionary naturalist myth that life originated from non-living matter, while at the same time insisting that the regeneration of a limb from living matter would somehow constitute proof of God’s existence?
Is Shermer simply being willfully perverse, as Wood seems to believe? Much as I profoundly disagree with Shermer, I would argue that his position is at least intellectually consistent, even if I also consider it to be unreasonable. Here’s why.