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Thread: Does God Exist?

  1. #61
    Reader in Slood Dynamics Rincewind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David_Richards
    Nice argument. What you're really talking about is empirical observation, without which one merely has postulation. The question is what exactly are you trying to empirically investigate? God only exists in words, without language there is no tangable Godly presence. Our God doesn't physically exist outside vocabulary and our psyche.

    In order to use empirical enquiry to investigate the existence of God, one would have to measure some specific aspect of Godly behaviour. According to the word, Our God is everything. In effect the Universe is God and all behaviour is Godly by definition, if its an omniscient, omnipotent God we're talking about. So any outcome to any experiment in effect becomes a validation of God's existence and empirical enquiry breaks down.
    Sounds like you want to define the universe as God. This might be fine in a New Age sense, but such a neat redefinition clearly is not the God of Western Christian tradition. This God has a personality, a personal relationship which his creation involving an ongoing dialogue as described in the Bible.

    The tradition of miracles, for example, is an example of Western Christian religious belief which is open to scientific enquiry. I would say science has pretty much killed the miracle business, as not one reliably documented miracle which was scientifically investigated is known to me.
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  2. #62
    CC Grandmaster Alan Shore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Cox
    I would say science has pretty much killed the miracle business, as not one reliably documented miracle which was scientifically investigated is known to me.
    How could it be scientifically investigated? Happened 2000 years ago!

    Actually there was an interesting study being conducted at hospitals.. if you recall those who have near-death experiences usually report a strange sensation of looking down at themselves from above. To test, apparently experimenters hid some items in the room that could only be seen from a top-view and see if the patients reported. Unfortunately the instance of it happening to one of the patients in the study would be very slim, so doubt there'd be any meaningful data yet. Neuroscientists did actually find something odd; when stimulating the hypothalamus there were reports of replicating the sensation of seeing themselves from above, yet I don't think this has been completely substantiated yet.
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  3. #63
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David_Richards
    The 'point' of belief is to sustain the individual, it equates with hope. There's nohing logical about it, it cannot be reasoned, it emerges from our insinct to survive.
    Then why do individuals sometimes give their lives for beliefs (including those that are false) rather than adopt other beliefs which would enable them to survive much better?

    And irrespective of what factors may sway the irrationally disposed to believe in nonsense, we are talking about what sway reason may have for those disposed to listen to it. You will have a very tough time convincing me that there are really no such people.

    And why is any belief more correct than any other? Because a belief system simply permits an individual to interact with the world around them. How do you measure correctness? Impossible but perhaps happiness is the closest correlation and the measure of correctness might be the degree to which the individual integrates within their community.
    In other words a person's belief is "correct", according to you, to the extent to which it enables the individual to conform. But in that case the group could believe things about the natural world that were clearly wrong, resulting in disaster for all, and up to the point where this happened they would all stack up as "correct" on your criteria. We have many examples from science of cases where a belief persecuted by the majority of the time was ultimately extremely useful to later communities, and uncontroversially accepted as correct by those later communities. There are also examples where new knowledge gave an individual no new ability to interact but gave that ability to others, or examples where new knowledge made it harder for an individual to make sense of the world (eg by disproving a convenient theory) but was nonetheless clearly correct.

    By the way your paragraph above reads like the kind of mega-shonky argument used by the dodgiest of alternative therapists to defend their practices against modern medicine, or used by religious fanatics to suppress scientific truth because it would alarm the commoners. You should know better, and for someone in a scientific discipline to even publicly joke about believing this rubbish is pathetic.

    Because the most powerful of our instincts is survival. For example, it might be entirely rational for an individual that has reasoned that the existence of a God is almost impossible, or entirely illogical at the very least, to become a devout Christian if his extended community were entirely devout Christians. Because to him the most important consideration might be integration, social acceptance, the ability to form allegiances - survival. The logic of the argument whether God exists becomes entirely superfluous.
    Not true. In this case if might be most rational for that individual to feign being a Christian, but so long as they knew it was all probably rubbish they would not really, in their own mind, be one. Unless you are defining Christianity institutionally, in which case religion has nothing to do with belief anyway so your point is irrelevant.

  4. #64
    CC International Master Goughfather's Avatar
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    This answers all the points you've raised, it comes down to this, which beliefs are correct. Because that's all this is - belief, nothing more, nothing less.
    Belief must always have a foundation. What if I believe I can fly? In this case, my belief is going to be sorely disappointed.

    The 'point' of belief is to sustain the individual, it equates with hope. There's nohing logical about it, it cannot be reasoned, it emerges from our insinct to survive.
    Well, let me be the first to say that, using your own words, there is nothing reasonable or logical about the belief that you hold. I'm guessing some kind of cognitive dissonance is playing a part here.

    Because the most powerful of our instincts is survival. For example, it might be entirely rational for an individual that has reasoned that the existence of a God is almost impossible, or entirely illogical at the very least, to become a devout Christian if his extended community were entirely devout Christians. Because to him the most important consideration might be integration, social acceptance, the ability to form allegiances - survival.
    And indeed, if you wish to be consistent with your argument, this applies equally to atheistic belief. I wonder what role an instinct of survival plays in your sub-par Kierkegaardian belief structure?

    Nice argument. What you're really talking about is empirical observation, without which one merely has postulation. The question is what exactly are you trying to empirically investigate? God only exists in words, without language there is no tangable Godly presence. Our God doesn't physically exist outside vocabulary and our psyche.
    Amusingly enough you make a truth claim here. As you've said before, belief holds no objective reality, and is only an indicator of environmental circumstances. Following this train of thought renders your argument entirely meaningless and without any sense of objective merit. Why then do you persist in the subjective belief that you are contributing anything meaningful to this discussion. But I guess if it makes you happy, that's all that matters.

    In order to use empirical enquiry to investigate the existence of God, one would have to measure some specific aspect of Godly behaviour. According to the word, Our God is everything. In effect the Universe is God and all behaviour is Godly by definition, if its an omniscient, omnipotent God we're talking about. So any outcome to any experiment in effect becomes a validation of God's existence and empirical enquiry breaks down.
    It breaks down because you are suggesting a pantheistic God, of which Barry correctly asserts never even closely resembles the God as represented in the Christian Canon. Accordingly, since your first premise is faulty, all further enquiry breaks down.
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  5. #65
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David_Richards
    The question is what exactly are you trying to empirically investigate? God only exists in words, without language there is no tangable Godly presence. Our God doesn't physically exist outside vocabulary and our psyche.
    Believers argue that God does not physically exist in a way detectable by us directly, but affects our physical world in some way (even if, in some versions, only by creating the universe then taking a back seat). Any view that God has impacted on the universe post-creation amounts to an empirical statement that things have happened that either would not have happened otherwise or would have been less likely otherwise. Such claims can be made empirically testable.

    In order to use empirical enquiry to investigate the existence of God, one would have to measure some specific aspect of Godly behaviour.
    False - see above. You could also measure a consequence.

    According to the word, Our God is everything. In effect the Universe is God and all behaviour is Godly by definition, if its an omniscient, omnipotent God we're talking about. So any outcome to any experiment in effect becomes a validation of God's existence and empirical enquiry breaks down.
    Total rubbish - if an experiment fails to show evidence of anything incompatible with a no-God view, then it has not "validated God's existence."

  6. #66
    CC Grandmaster Alan Shore's Avatar
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    It's all very well for Goughfather to criticise Dave's reasoning yet I'm wondering if/when he'll present his own 'logically sound' justifications for his beliefs?
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  7. #67
    CC International Master Goughfather's Avatar
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    As I've stated in previous threads Bruce, my attempt to justify my faith rests in the veracity of the Resurrection. I've gone over it dozens of times in various forums and found online discussion to be particularly unfruitful. However, the next time you are in Sydney, I would would be more than happy to sit down with you over a glass of red, or fifteen, should you have a spare eleven hours up your sleeve.

    Let's stick to the question at hand. What do you find objectionable about my line of argument against David Richards?
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  8. #68
    CC Grandmaster Alan Shore's Avatar
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    Goughfather, I find no fault in your reply to David, in fact I quite enjoyed it. I was just curious why you didn't present some of your own arguments to justify your beliefs.

    I remember from our last 4-hour conversation that your faith boiled down to the resurrection.. good Indian food that night, hehe.

    I'd be happy to join you next time I'm in town.. actually it's nice of you to extend such an invitation, I remember last time we spoke you were pretty annoyed with me for 'other' reasons..
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  9. #69
    Reader in Slood Dynamics Rincewind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Dickinson
    How could it be scientifically investigated? Happened 2000 years ago!
    If you say the resurrrection was a once off and only miracle God then his followers certainly have very vivid imaginations. The tradition of miracles dates back centuries and goes on to this day.

    Divine visions, healing by prayer, weeping statues, that sort of thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Dickinson
    Actually there was an interesting study being conducted at hospitals.. if you recall those who have near-death experiences usually report a strange sensation of looking down at themselves from above. To test, apparently experimenters hid some items in the room that could only be seen from a top-view and see if the patients reported. Unfortunately the instance of it happening to one of the patients in the study would be very slim, so doubt there'd be any meaningful data yet. Neuroscientists did actually find something odd; when stimulating the hypothalamus there were reports of replicating the sensation of seeing themselves from above, yet I don't think this has been completely substantiated yet.
    Sounds like one that would be hard to get past the ethics board to me.
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  10. #70
    CC Grandmaster Alan Shore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Cox
    If you say the resurrrection was a once off and only miracle God then his followers certainly have very vivid imaginations. The tradition of miracles dates back centuries and goes on to this day.

    Divine visions, healing by prayer, weeping statues, that sort of thing.
    Ah, ok, wasn't clear on which miracles you were referring to. I think visions are quite acceptable, widely documented stuff. Naturally you can't infer the cause was divine, for coincidence is just as viable an explanation... I would regard miracles as things that violate natural (physical) law, so yes, there has been no scientific proof (that I know of) of these other phenomenon.



    Sounds like one that would be hard to get past the ethics board to me.
    No, I think it even had the permission of its participants, so no forseeable ethical issues. On that topic though, ethics boards suck. I'm tempted to conduct a host of cool experiments and publish them all after my death.. so much has been learned from past psychological studies that wouldn't have an icicle's chance in hell of getting past an ethics board.
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  11. #71
    Reader in Slood Dynamics Rincewind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Dickinson
    No, I think it even had the permission of its participants, so no forseeable ethical issues.
    If the participants are expecting to have a near death experience their state of mind might be called into question. Therefore, the permission of the participants doesn't necessariy give the research a green-light, ethics-wise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Dickinson
    On that topic though, ethics boards suck. I'm tempted to conduct a host of cool experiments and publish them all after my death.. so much has been learned from past psychological studies that wouldn't have an icicle's chance in hell of getting past an ethics board.
    So the end justifies the means? Perhaps you should adopt the former pseudonym of Goughfather.
    So einfach wie möglich, aber nicht einfacher - Albert Einstein

  12. #72
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    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Cox
    Sounds like you want to define the universe as God. This might be fine in a New Age sense, but such a neat redefinition clearly is not the God of Western Christian tradition. This God has a personality, a personal relationship which his creation involving an ongoing dialogue as described in the Bible.
    Yes, part of the paradox! Catholics certainly believe God is omniscient & omnipotent and yet from the bible writings he has distinctly human qualities. How can an infinite being have limitations similtaneously? I'm not redefining God, the God I'm referring to is certainly the God I understood in my youth - as a Roman Catholic. It's certainly the God of my wife and her friends.

    The tradition of miracles, for example, is an example of Western Christian religious belief which is open to scientific enquiry. I would say science has pretty much killed the miracle business, as not one reliably documented miracle which was scientifically investigated is known to me.
    Of course, empirical enquiry has only been around for a few hundred years and so far I know of no miracles (during that time) that have disobeyed the known natural laws of the Universe (as well as we can understand them), except one.
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  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Dickinson
    How could it be scientifically investigated? Happened 2000 years ago!

    Actually there was an interesting study being conducted at hospitals.. if you recall those who have near-death experiences usually report a strange sensation of looking down at themselves from above. To test, apparently experimenters hid some items in the room that could only be seen from a top-view and see if the patients reported. Unfortunately the instance of it happening to one of the patients in the study would be very slim, so doubt there'd be any meaningful data yet. Neuroscientists did actually find something odd; when stimulating the hypothalamus there were reports of replicating the sensation of seeing themselves from above, yet I don't think this has been completely substantiated yet.

    Hypoxia produces a whole range of hallucinatory experiences, the higher cortical functions then tries to 'make sense' of those experiences, sub-consciously of course.

    Hypoxia has also been used to heighten sexual arousal, and one Conservative MP was found dead with the bag still over his head.
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 28-08-2004 at 07:22 PM. Reason: wishing other poster nearly dead
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  14. #74
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    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by Goughfather
    Belief must always have a foundation. What if I believe I can fly? In this case, my belief is going to be sorely disappointed.
    Of course, this is the strength of religious belief. Much of what has formulated religious belief stem from an understanding of man's interaction of the natural world, and observance of the consequences thereof, some of which is often hard to predict. For example, pork is a major carrier for salmonella poisoning. Understanding eating pork could sometimes lead to disease or death (natural law), it becomes incorporated into religious law.

    Similarly, times of food shortage became times of religious fasting, harvest time became harvest festival, when food was abundance.



    Well, let me be the first to say that, using your own words, there is nothing reasonable or logical about the belief that you hold. I'm guessing some kind of cognitive dissonance is playing a part here.

    And indeed, if you wish to be consistent with your argument, this applies equally to atheistic belief. I wonder what role an instinct of survival plays in your sub-par Kierkegaardian belief structure?
    What belief is that?


    Amusingly enough you make a truth claim here. As you've said before, belief holds no objective reality, and is only an indicator of environmental circumstances. Following this train of thought renders your argument entirely meaningless and without any sense of objective merit. Why then do you persist in the subjective belief that you are contributing anything meaningful to this discussion. But I guess if it makes you happy, that's all that matters.
    That's right, it's a simple choice - to believe in some higher being, or following the obvious, objective logic that we are complex, replicating bichemical systems, trapped by our survival mechanisms into seeking some meaning in our meaningless existence. That may be objectively true, but it dosen't mean subjectively, that we still can't enjoy ourselves.



    It breaks down because you are suggesting a pantheistic God, of which Barry correctly asserts never even closely resembles the God as represented in the Christian Canon. Accordingly, since your first premise is faulty, all further enquiry breaks down.
    God is all things to all people, and you can choose any God you like. However, many people believe that all that transpires is the will of God. No matter what the outcome of the experiment, is can still be construed to be the will of God, because most people, no matter what their belief, believe that their God is beyond the physical confines of the Universe and so beyond natural law. Empirical enquiy is based on a limited understanding of the natural laws of the Universe and therefore breaks down in the super-natural realm. What else does super-natural imply?
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  15. #75
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    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    Then why do individuals sometimes give their lives for beliefs (including those that are false) rather than adopt other beliefs which would enable them to survive much better?
    Of course all self-sustaining mechanisms can break down. Individuals become depressed & suicidal as a consequence of impaired brain chemistry. Nothing's perfect!

    And irrespective of what factors may sway the irrationally disposed to believe in nonsense, we are talking about what sway reason may have for those disposed to listen to it. You will have a very tough time convincing me that there are really no such people.
    Again survival plays a powerful part here. There is a natural biological advantage in developing alliances and loyalties, so persuading others of your point of view, of things (at a subconscious level) that seem to promote your survival is entirely logical.

    In other words a person's belief is "correct", according to you, to the extent to which it enables the individual to conform. But in that case the group could believe things about the natural world that were clearly wrong, resulting in disaster for all, and up to the point where this happened they would all stack up as "correct" on your criteria. We have many examples from science of cases where a belief persecuted by the majority of the time was ultimately extremely useful to later communities, and uncontroversially accepted as correct by those later communities. There are also examples where new knowledge gave an individual no new ability to interact but gave that ability to others, or examples where new knowledge made it harder for an individual to make sense of the world (eg by disproving a convenient theory) but was nonetheless clearly correct.
    Yes of course, there is an evolutionary process at work. Some systems work poorly and fail, systems that interact well with the real world survive. Sometimes things proceed down an evolutionary dead-end and other enterprising systems become obliterated before they can gain a foothold. There really are no surprises.


    By the way your paragraph above reads like the kind of mega-shonky argument used by the dodgiest of alternative therapists to defend their practices against modern medicine, or used by religious fanatics to suppress scientific truth because it would alarm the commoners. You should know better, and for someone in a scientific discipline to even publicly joke about believing this rubbish is pathetic.
    Yes, as I was writing it I thought it could be construed as Post-Modernist. In fact it's very simple. Scientific enquiry relies on empirical observation, that has been the basis of our enlightenment. Even scientific theory owes almost every to empirical observation.

    Not true. In this case if might be most rational for that individual to feign being a Christian, but so long as they knew it was all probably rubbish they would not really, in their own mind, be one. Unless you are defining Christianity institutionally, in which case religion has nothing to do with belief anyway so your point is irrelevant.
    Oh come on, since when did you have to believe in God to be a Christian? Really!!!!
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