The God Delusion

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Postby Crisper » Thu Oct 11, 2007 2:50 am

Siniestro wrote:Ok, I see, Crisper. But you could only understand it if what you experience is not a direct effect of the work of a deity, if the events you observe follow under cause/effect relationship. Many people believe God send plagues, accidents, earthquakes, .... even rain to reward, to punish, ... So to undertand those phenomena we experience, you need to somehow include the study of the will of that interventionist god. Of course, your statement includes implicitly other options such as that of a god that doesn't participate or simply that of a god that doesn't exist. If god is just entirely outside our universe without the option to participate in it, then I think in principle I would agree with your statement. But then we need to understand his nature (interventionist or not) and even his non existence to discard his participation in the things and events we experience. I guess this is just a little disquisition to create some more controversy and add a little more perspective to the discussion (which is why I come here often, for the quality of these discussions very difficult to find elsewhere on top of my interest for DL). Anyway I hope I explained myself better now.


Yes, a complete statement of the position I am describing is: "I have faith that science can explain the world around me without needing to invoke a deity."
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Postby Brandon » Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:40 am

Another thing to take into account is that Burden of Proof, in discussions like these, does not mean that you have to prove that your assertion is 100% completely true. It only requires that you provide reasonable evidence.

Ex.1:

Theist: God is the creator the universe.

Atheist: I am not convinced of this claim. Why do you think that is the case?

Theist: The design of the universe implies a creator.

Atheist: Science has provided convincing theories on how the universe formed. These explanations do not require a creator.

Ex.2:

Atheist: God is not the creator of the universe.

Theist: I am not convinced that this is the case. Could you explain your position?

Atheist: Science has produced theories that adequately explain the formation of the universe through purely natural means.

Theist: But science has provided no definitive proof that God did not use these natural means to create the universe.

As you can see, these weak examples of discussion show that the Burden of Proof, or reasonable proof, is not beyond either the atheist or the theist. To claim that the atheist need not provide proof of his claim, that God does not exist, is not accurate. It can be done. Only when the Burden of Proof is raised to an impossibly high standard does this become a problem. And it is a problem for both sides.
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Postby Brandon » Thu Oct 11, 2007 4:15 am

Here is an interesting article on the burden of proof, from a Catholic apologetics viewpoint.

http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0310bt.asp
Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.

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Re: The problem is

Postby DTechBA » Thu Oct 11, 2007 1:18 pm

Siniestro wrote:
DTechBA wrote:Brandon is nowhere near right. Brandon stated that it is always incumbent on someone making a claim to prove it. In this case the claim was that God does not exist. Simply put, in research the onus is ALWAYS on proving the existence of something or at least proving that there is no other logical explanation. Proving the non-existence of something is virtually impossible and the argument to prove non-existence is a very common fallacious argument.


DBTEchA, Brandon's argument would have been fallacious if he had tried to prove God's existence by demanding others demonstrating His nonexistence. That is the fallacy you may be referring to, but in which Brandon didn't incur. If I understood correctly he merely stated that the burden of proof of any proposal (ANY PROPOSITION) falls on the the one making the proposition, including those about nonexistence or those which are trivial. (I can easily prove there does not exist a cat inside the carton box I am holding right now, and in mathematics, in abstract algegra, in linear algebra, even in geometry or calculus ... don't even get me started, there are many many nice examples of non existence proofs). I am aware non existence in absolute terms is difficult to demonstrate and impossible in many instances. However this fallacy is not about proving non existence but about proving existence by showing the impossibility to prove non existence. Brandon, again if I understood correctly, didn't do that. Nonetheless this is what you said: The evidence for a nonexistence is already present as it has not yet been proven to exist in the first place. So that is why there is no need to prove non existence? Because something has not been proven yet to exist? That is where the fallacy resides.


Well, we shall stopping arguing the semantics of it since it really is moot. The reality of it is that the question of god is, at this time, unproveable on either side. That is why it is called faith.
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Postby Rich Douglas » Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:02 pm

Brandon wrote:Actually, if I am not mistaken, the burden of proof falls on anyone making a claim. So, if one says that God does not exist, they are obligated to prove that claim. If one says that they are not convinced that God exists, no burden of proof falls on them. Something about positive and negative assertions or some darn thing. I don’t really remember.


Nope. This is backwards, IMHO. A phenomenom isn't proven until it is. Otherwise, anyone could assert anything, then sit back and say, "Prove me wrong." An untested hypothesis isn't proof of anything.

God may or may not exist. But until that hypothesis is established and supported sufficiently, one cannot say he/she exists. That's why they call it "faith." It is not the burden of others to prove God does not exist.


"Atheists cannot disprove the existence of God. We have to take it on faith." -- Woody Allen
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Postby Rich Douglas » Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:09 pm

Matters of faith can be left to the faithful. But when they wish to invoke the language and techniques of science, then they're also bound by its rules.

Hypotheses are presented in the null. In this case, one would hypothesize that there is no God. The alternative hypothesis is that there is a God. Evidence is collected and the null is examined. If there is sufficient evidence to reject the null, then the alternative is supported.

A. Null: There is no God.
B. Alternative: There is.
C. Evidence collected and analyzed.
D. Null evaluated and either supported or rejected in favor of the alternative.

Now, that's the epistemology of natural science. Philosophy, for example, has a different one, with different linked methodologies. There, you will see in use more qualitative methods, such as a good argument. I'll pass.
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Postby Rich Douglas » Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:24 pm

Brandon wrote:Another thing to take into account is that Burden of Proof, in discussions like these, does not mean that you have to prove that your assertion is 100% completely true. It only requires that you provide reasonable evidence.

Ex.1:

Theist: God is the creator the universe.

Atheist: I am not convinced of this claim. Why do you think that is the case?

Theist: The design of the universe implies a creator.

Atheist: Science has provided convincing theories on how the universe formed. These explanations do not require a creator.

Ex.2:

Atheist: God is not the creator of the universe.

Theist: I am not convinced that this is the case. Could you explain your position?

Atheist: Science has produced theories that adequately explain the formation of the universe through purely natural means.

Theist: But science has provided no definitive proof that God did not use these natural means to create the universe.

As you can see, these weak examples of discussion show that the Burden of Proof, or reasonable proof, is not beyond either the atheist or the theist. To claim that the atheist need not provide proof of his claim, that God does not exist, is not accurate. It can be done. Only when the Burden of Proof is raised to an impossibly high standard does this become a problem. And it is a problem for both sides.


Example 1 is more appropriate. Example 2 is flawed.

One does not use science to disprove the existence of something. That cannot be done, because science is the CONTINUOUS pursuit of new knowledge. Take, for example, the theory of gravity. Pretty solid, very well supported, has widespread acceptance and recognition. But what if tomorrow we discover some aspect that doesn't apply, is wrong, etc.? Do we abandon this new information because the matter has already been "proven"? Of course not. That's why things like gravity and evolution are "theories," open to new information as it arises/develops.

The only reason why this discussion exists is because it touches on a belief cherished by many people. Well, beleive what you want, that's fine. But don't think for a minute you can assert something is "true" or "exists" because someone else hasn't disproven it.

"Reasonable evidence" isn't the burden of proof. What if there is "reasonable evidence" to the contrary, too? No, what is necessary is the "preponderance of evidence." One argument is better supported than the other, so it is accepted over the other, subject to new revelations in the future.

Finally, Occam's razor directs to the answer with the fewest assumptions. If something can be show to exist due to observable events, no supernatural explanation is needed. Absent other evidence of said supernatural--and there always seems to be an absence of evidence--it is reasonable to conclude that such a supernatural phenomenom hasn't yet been proven to exist. Also, the previous reason for asserting it does--the wind, the sea, the planets, the origin of the species--has been shown to come from much more modest and natural means. This sends the theist and his/her hypothesis back to the lab to search anew.

God might exist. And Velikovsky might have been right. But both assertions are woefully lacking the evidence necessary to accept them, and both have been countered heavily with observations to the contrary. In the face of such contrary evidence, it was simple to marginalize Velikovsky. Theism, however, sits very strongly in people, despite lack of evidence supporting it and the mounds of evidence to the contrary. It is much harder to toss aside.

(Now, if God shows up tomorrow and explains how he did things the way Velikovsky explained them, then we have another matter. That would be cool. But I suspect Friday will come and go without that event, so I'm not going to set aside my plans to await it.)
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Postby Rich Douglas » Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:26 pm

"phenomenon"

I do that a lot.
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Postby Hungry Ghost » Thu Oct 11, 2007 4:02 pm

Siniestro wrote:
Hungry Ghost wrote:I do sense that there's a subtle pattern to it, but I'm not sure what that pattern is, what it means or what explains it. Does religion fulfill valuable functions in human life and society? Does it point to something beyond itself, something real and transcendent? Or is it just some meaningless and conceivably disfunctional byproduct of our emotional and cognitive processes?


Well, it could be as well that man has a psychological need to understand everything that surrounds him and when something escapes to his knowledge he resorts to magic and religion to explain the unexplainable.

Yeah, there's something to that.

There's a principle of closure in human thinking, a filling in of the gaps that blinds us to all of the myriad things that we don't know.

All that it takes to uncover that chasm is the game of 'why' what small children use to confound adults. Take anything in our experience and ask 'why'. When an answer is produced, ask 'why' again. Repeat. It rarely takes more than a few iterations to arrive at the boundaries of human knowledge. Try it with time, for example.

Despite the fact that we don't really have a clue about much of anything, we nevertheless blunder through life with this bland assurance that everything is familiar and obvious to us. There's evolutionary advantage in believing that I suppose, since it clears the decks for action and keeps our ignorance from paralyzing us. We might not have any of the fundamental answers, but we still know enough to survive.

Even paleolithic man, sitting around his stone-age campfires after a mammoth hunt, no doubt was supremely confident that he had the whole universe figured out. What he didn't really understand, he just papered over and filled in.

And the material that he used to do that came from his own experience, from his own peculiarly human way of thinking. So he anthropomorphized. He filled his world with animating spirits modeled on himself, conceived in personal form, occult beings with purposes that could be understood and passions that could be propitiated by proper ritual and sacrifice.
The lack of religion drives us directly to a failure to build a epistemology

I think that historically, epistemologies arise precisely when religion is under stress or not speaking with a single voice. (Times like our own.) Ancient Greek philosophy arose when belief in the Olympian gods wobbled. Thales restated the then-traditional 'water = primordial chaos' creation myth without the capricious interventions of the gods, in stable terms of unchanging physical principles. In India, philosophy appeared when extra-Vedic counter-traditions had appeared alongside the traditional Brahmanical sacrifices and magic.

Perhaps it's the times of stress that kind of fracture the simple assurances and make people desirous of more stable foundations for their thinking.
and a degradation of values to a relativism. If God doesn't exist, then no moral and ethical law apply as they are a product of man and therefore none are universal. This is the danger and this is where religion plays an important role because as Nietzsche predicted the death of God leads to nihilism which in turn leads to decadence and destruction.

I wouldn't want to place too much importance on "God", since much of the world does just fine without believing in it. But the point is probably still be a good one if it's broadened from 'death of God' to 'collapse of traditional religious certainties'.
However, this is the challenge, to build something meaningful from the basis of a purposeless universe without the aid of a God who either doesn't exist or it is indifferent to us. Existentialist did try, and I think this is the main issue for many intellectuals at this moment.

I think that the Buddhists (particularly the Theravadins) might have something to contribute to that. It's a non-theistic system of spiritual psychology you might say, that isn't really dependent on people believing that they have the answers to transcendental questions. It supports a very elaborate and profound ethics that's based pragmatically on that psychology, not on divine commands, composed of precepts that are justified by their effects on one's spiritual development.
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Postby DTechBA » Thu Oct 11, 2007 4:08 pm

Brandon wrote:Another thing to take into account is that Burden of Proof, in discussions like these, does not mean that you have to prove that your assertion is 100% completely true. It only requires that you provide reasonable evidence.

Ex.1:

Theist: God is the creator the universe.

Atheist: I am not convinced of this claim. Why do you think that is the case?

Theist: The design of the universe implies a creator.

Atheist: Science has provided convincing theories on how the universe formed. These explanations do not require a creator.

Ex.2:

Atheist: God is not the creator of the universe.

Theist: I am not convinced that this is the case. Could you explain your position?

Atheist: Science has produced theories that adequately explain the formation of the universe through purely natural means.

Theist: But science has provided no definitive proof that God did not use these natural means to create the universe.

As you can see, these weak examples of discussion show that the Burden of Proof, or reasonable proof, is not beyond either the atheist or the theist. To claim that the atheist need not provide proof of his claim, that God does not exist, is not accurate. It can be done. Only when the Burden of Proof is raised to an impossibly high standard does this become a problem. And it is a problem for both sides.


The problem with example 2 in your post is that the majority of the Christian faith's do in fact discount the possibility that God used natural means to create the universe. They point to the Bible as the definitive word of God and the Bible discounts such natural means.
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Postby Brandon » Fri Oct 12, 2007 12:47 am

DTechBA wrote:Well, we shall stopping arguing the semantics of it since it really is moot. The reality of it is that the question of god is, at this time, unproveable on either side. That is why it is called faith.


On this we can agree.

Rich Douglas wrote:Nope. This is backwards, IMHO. A phenomenom isn't proven until it is. Otherwise, anyone could assert anything, then sit back and say, "Prove me wrong." An untested hypothesis isn't proof of anything.


That would be true, if I were I were trying to perform some common logical fallacies. I have not said “prove me wrong.” Please read over my postings again. I have said that if you make an affirmative statement you’re not free from the burden of proof. Atheists, like Dawkins, who make the claim that God does not exist, which is an affirmative statement, carries with him the obligation to offer up proof of his claim. Dawkins did this, poorly IMO, but he did.

Rich Douglas wrote:Example 1 is more appropriate. Example 2 is flawed.

One does not use science to disprove the existence of something. That cannot be done, because science is the CONTINUOUS pursuit of new knowledge. Take, for example, the theory of gravity. Pretty solid, very well supported, has widespread acceptance and recognition. But what if tomorrow we discover some aspect that doesn't apply, is wrong, etc.? Do we abandon this new information because the matter has already been "proven"? Of course not. That's why things like gravity and evolution are "theories," open to new information as it arises/develops.


Perhaps the example might be flawed but the general idea, that atheists also possess a burden of proof, is not. These discussions should really consist of philosophy, not science.

Rich Douglas wrote:"Reasonable evidence" isn't the burden of proof. What if there is "reasonable evidence" to the contrary, too? No, what is necessary is the "preponderance of evidence." One argument is better supported than the other, so it is accepted over the other, subject to new revelations in the future.


Perhaps I did not make myself clear. Burden of Proof is reasonable evidence. Reasonable evidence is something that can be defended against your opponent’s reasonable response. The effort is to provide the better evidence. However, that does not mean 100% complete proof, which was the point I was trying to get across. Otherwise, I agree with most of what you just said.

DTechBA wrote:The problem with example 2 in your post is that the majority of the Christian faith's do in fact discount the possibility that God used natural means to create the universe. They point to the Bible as the definitive word of God and the Bible discounts such natural means.


Admittedly, they were weak examples of discussion. I simply put together something short and simple to help me illustrate my point. A Christian could still use the argument that God used the natural means discovered by scientists. I personally like the idea.
Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.

- 1 Peter 5:8

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Postby Siniestro » Fri Oct 12, 2007 2:29 pm

Hungry Ghost wrote:And the material that he used to do that came from his own experience, from his own peculiarly human way of thinking. So he anthropomorphized. He filled his world with animating spirits modeled on himself, conceived in personal form, occult beings with purposes that could be understood and passions that could be propitiated by proper ritual and sacrifice.


I agree with that. Take a look at how the Greeks organized their theological structure (through those stories transmitted by Homer and other poets) and it wasn't anything but an image of the actual Greek society. Gods thus were greedy, adulterer, noble or thieves; same attributes men saw around them. However, and for the sake of argument, perhaps this anthropomorphism you mentioned didn't stop back then or at the Enlightenment or Modernism or at any other period of intellectual history. If you think about it, probably we, as a society, are doing something very similar at this moment. After our failure to construct an epistemology (there is no possibility of knowledge with current science, and this goes for Crisper too, for the uncertainty principle, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, relativism, etc fail to establish absolute truths, causality weakens and mere statistics and probability substitute a mechanistic view of a world where reason is not enough anymore), and after that incredulity towards science as well, the apparent overcoming of Modernism, we are attributing to our gods the disappointment, emptiness and feeling of absurd meaninglessness, our Existentialist nihilism, our new religion. And thus human beings wander directionless in a universe that they don't understand where nothing makes sense and everything is pointless. Man self indulges in consumerism and in hedonism and the only thing that resembles religion is the cult to the image for he has nowhere else to look at. Some brilliant thinkers have said it could lead to the greatest crisis in human history. But as you pointed out it could be too a perfect chance to build a new epistemology. Could that be done without having really absolute truths? I mean, have we advanced a lot in this sense from those Paleolithic men you mentioned who sat around a fire and vainly thought to grasp everyhting around them? What would be then the source of knowledge to build our epistemology in these times?

And regarding the ethics I think it occurs something similar. Is it possible to construct ethics? All ethics aspire to be universal, or they aren't. How would you do that in there is no higher authority, if we live in cultural relativism? By consensus? Look around you, and even in a country like America, that it is still a pretty homogeneous society, you'll understand that it is impossible task.

Our enemies know very well all these issues.
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