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  1. #461
    Writing... Tamske's Avatar
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    I'd like to react to this one too. I'm running behind in this thread...

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    This is a fair point, and the best answer I can give to this is the following metaphor.
    If I could talk to fish I don't think I could convince one that the ocean exists. After all what evidence would I give? (...)
    If the fish has a brain at least as good as, say, an ape's, it should be possible. After all, we humans convinced *ourselves* that we live in an atmosphere, while air is so much thinner than water!

    Instead if I really wanted to convice the fish I would use a different approach by trying to win his trust. Then he might simply take my word for it instead. I would do this because it is easier to convince the fish this way then by trying to convince him that the evidence really was evidence.
    I'd use both. After all, I trust Galilei's ideas, not because I've known him and trust him in person, but because I can repeat his experiments and see for myself that his ideas were true. So here you've got the other way around - the trust is there because of the evidence.

    And this is the approach that I think God has taken. He has sent trustworthy people like Jesus or Mohammad or Siddhartha to guide the rest of us. The decline in modern religion, I believe, has nothing to do with science. Rather it has to do with a lack of trustworthy religious leaders. Rising from the dead was just as irrational 2000 years ago as it is today. But people believe these things in spite of them being irrational because they trust the people giving the message. I became a Christian because I trust the authors of the New Testament. I also trusted the pastor of the church I've been attending the past several years. However I don't particularly trust either the Pope or Rick Warren or any other major religious figure I see on TV. The public figures give religion a bad name and I think that affects a person's view of religion more than any scientific evidence (or lack thereof).
    I know a lot of nice priests, religion teachers and other believers I highly respect. No hard feelings. I didn't lose my religion because of the sex scandals in the Belgian church or something (I lost it before they became known). I've lost it because of lack of evidence. Of course, it helped that the atheist who kept on asking me questions was a good friend. But then again, I've got good believer friends too and they were in the majority.
    So even though I believe in God I don't think science will find any "evidence" of God's existence. Not unless they find a way to measure the immeasurable. However I think anyone with doubts or skepticism could be made to change their mind if they found a believer they could really trust. Talk of evidence is misleading because no one has been convinced by evidence even though many of the greatest minds in history have believed in some sort of God or transcendent entity. Were Isaac Newton or Socrates really ignorant and irrational people?
    About Newton and Socrates - of course they weren't ignorant and irrational. They were only wrong about some things. Newton devoted most of his life to alchemy which turned out to be false. I don't blame him for that - nobody had proved before that the alchemic ideas were false! That's what scientific progress is. If you do research, it's very well possible you're researching something that will turn out to be wrong. Reseachers don't have a teacher who knows the right answers. They are building brand new knowledge. Just because I think this is very important: while researching, you don't know whether your ideas are right or wrong. That's exactly what you're trying to find out.
    And Russell and Einstein aren't dumb either - they didn't believe in a personal god. Einstein used the word "god" to express his awe for the universe but he didn't believe in a superbeing. Russell was very much an atheist - he's the one with the "you prove there is no teapot on orbit between Mars and Jupiter" idea I've borrowed already.
    The difference? They came LATER in history.
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  2. #462
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamske View Post
    If the fish has a brain at least as good as, say, an ape's, it should be possible. After all, we humans convinced *ourselves* that we live in an atmosphere, while air is so much thinner than water!
    I wasn't trying to emphasise that the fish was in water, but that it was in an ocean. My points were that you can't measure something that is immeasurable and you can't discover evidence for something when everything is evidence.

    Although even when it comes to convincing a fish that it is in water even though could take a while. Recall that humans were using mathematics for thousands of years before someone thought to use the number zero. Even things which seem obvious to us now are not obvious to someone who isn't used to thinking in that way.

    I'd use both. After all, I trust Galilei's ideas, not because I've known him and trust him in person, but because I can repeat his experiments and see for myself that his ideas were true. So here you've got the other way around - the trust is there because of the evidence.
    It's true that trust involves more that just a person's character. Competence is key as well. People trusted Dr. MLK, because he was able to rally people behind his cause. In his prime people trusted Ralph Nader's opinion about consumer products, because he always did his homework to make sure he found out about them. People also trusted the character of these two gentlemen. Both competence and character have to be present to inspire trust.

    The question I have though is why do people trust scientists when they are talking about religion or philosophy? I tend to trust scientists when they are talking about science, but why should I care about their opinion about anything else?

    About Newton and Socrates - of course they weren't ignorant and irrational. They were only wrong about some things. Newton devoted most of his life to alchemy which turned out to be false. I don't blame him for that - nobody had proved before that the alchemic ideas were false! That's what scientific progress is. If you do research, it's very well possible you're researching something that will turn out to be wrong. Reseachers don't have a teacher who knows the right answers. They are building brand new knowledge. Just because I think this is very important: while researching, you don't know whether your ideas are right or wrong. That's exactly what you're trying to find out.
    And Russell and Einstein aren't dumb either - they didn't believe in a personal god. Einstein used the word "god" to express his awe for the universe but he didn't believe in a superbeing. Russell was very much an atheist - he's the one with the "you prove there is no teapot on orbit between Mars and Jupiter" idea I've borrowed already.
    The difference? They came LATER in history.
    As an aside I find it interesting that when we actually listen to the other person when discussing religion or politics, we find that the core disagreement may not have little to do with religion or politics. For example this piece seems to imply that mankind has become more enlightened with time. But I don't see things this way. I see mankind as becoming more knowledgable but not more enlightened.

    To answer this directly though my metaphor was simply about God in general rather than a personal God, and Einstein most certainly believed in God. But if you want to find evidence of a personal God, then you have to go out and look personally. You're not going to make a personal connection with someone by reading about them in a textbook. Finding a personal God is more like finding a spouse. You have to go out and find this person yourself. (Although I suppose some people find their spouse or their personal God through their parents.)
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  3. #463
    Writing... Tamske's Avatar
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    Immeasurable. I've got difficulties with that.
    If something has influence on reality, it is measurable. Take for example souls. They are different from matter but still they sort of live within our bodies and minds. They influence our bodies and minds. So they interact with matter. If they interact, you can measure them. It might be difficult. But we've measured neutrinos too; those very light and neutral particles which only interact with the weak nuclear force. We needed a swimming pool full of detergent to do it, but we did! We even determined their mass.
    Now from what I gather about the common definition of "soul" it has more influence on our brains than a neutrino would.
    So you can measure it.

    We did measure the atmosphere too - which is akin to your fish's ocean. We even measured the solar system beyond our atmosphere and the stellar system beyond that. We measured light coming from billions of years ago and billions of light-years away and made a guess at the age of the universe. The more we measure, the more we discover - everything always turns out bigger, older and stranger than we thought it was.

    What's so difficult then about measuring the influence of souls on our bodies? Incidentally, the scientists who concluded souls didn't exist DID start from the hypothesis that they do exist and wanted to prove that. Only it didn't work. So they weren't biased in favour of soulless humans. On the contrary, they were biased towards the existence of souls. Something happened which made them change mind.
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  4. #464
    Post Human Post Qlip's Avatar
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    ^^^ The question is too big, and it's too easy to stray from. In order to prove or disprove the existence of God, you have to set a definition for God first. The OP was pretty kinda general: Christian 'type' of God. Even within the Christian world, there are different ideas as to his existence.

    Case in point, not all Christians believe in a soul as you described, and definitely Jews don't. Souls are also believed to be just another way to describe a 'person' and not some type of etheric existence.

  5. #465
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamske View Post
    Immeasurable. I've got difficulties with that.
    If something has influence on reality, it is measurable.
    This is close. If something has finite influence on reality then it is measurable. Infinite, immeasurable, boundless; these words are synomymous. You cannot measure that which is infinite by definition.

    Take for example souls. They are different from matter but still they sort of live within our bodies and minds.
    ...
    I suppose that depends on what you are definition of "soul" is. From studying the scripture I've found the word soul might also be interpreted as "person", "life", "self", or "mind" depending on the context of the passage. All of those things are tangible though. It doesn't surprise me that no evidence of an intangible soul exists, because personally I never thought there was one. But I realize that there are many people who don't agree with me, so if you want to debate the existence of an intangible soul with someone, you'd probably find a better debate with someone else.

    On the other hand if you want to talk about free will that is something else entirely. According to Descartes each of us has free will and that is a prerequisite to studying the world around us. Furthermore our free and independent mind must be given to us by God. Whether people realize it or not we implicitly believe in free will when we give weight to the conclusions of science.

    We did measure the atmosphere too - which is akin to your fish's ocean.
    The ocean in my metaphor was meant to represent everything that exists, not simply the atmosphere. I apologize if the metaphor did not make my point clear. I realize that all metaphors have their limitations.
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  6. #466

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Schopenhauer View Post
    Guffaw.



    There is no evidence of god; there are no worthy arguments that play in his favor.



    It's a reference to the sophistry.
    You know of course that there is a distinction between evidence and argument, then again you could dismiss that as sophistry, stock reply of a sophist though so...

  7. #467
    What is, is. Arthur Schopenhauer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    You know of course that there is a distinction between evidence and argument, then again you could dismiss that as sophistry, stock reply of a sophist though so...
    Yes. There is a difference.

    Your point?
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  8. #468
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    I've never heard anyone say a disparaging word against Mother Theresa.
    Then perhaps you should read, "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice", a book by Christopher Hitchens

  9. #469
    Writing... Tamske's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    This is close. If something has finite influence on reality then it is measurable. Infinite, immeasurable, boundless; these words are synomymous. You cannot measure that which is infinite by definition.
    Infinite means "bigger than every number" so yes, it is measurable. If it's bigger than a meter, a kilometer,... even 10^{100} m, you've measured it. You didn't get an exact number, but you did set a lower bound on the length. There's even a concrete example of this. People have measured the lifetime of a proton to be longer than 10^{30} seconds.
    But let's get back to the question here. I'm not discussing the properties of a god. I'm discussing his (her, its, whatever) existence. It's so big you can't measure its existence???
    That was the very first thing being measured of a muon, by the way. Not properties, just: "hey, this thing is not a proton, neutron, electron or neutrino! It must be something else!"
    I've never measured something like "This is not coincidental, not natural, not man-made,... it must be something else!"

    I suppose that depends on what you are definition of "soul" is. From studying the scripture I've found the word soul might also be interpreted as "person", "life", "self", or "mind" depending on the context of the passage. All of those things are tangible though. It doesn't surprise me that no evidence of an intangible soul exists, because personally I never thought there was one. But I realize that there are many people who don't agree with me, so if you want to debate the existence of an intangible soul with someone, you'd probably find a better debate with someone else.
    I meant a non-material thing. If you agree that a soul/mind/self is made of ordinary matter and obeys the same ordinary laws of physics as, say, a stone... then I agree about its existence. But when people talk about a soul, they usually mean "something beyond ordinary matter" and more than sometimes even "something that lives on forever even after your matter self (your body) has decomposed... My point was: "if there exists such an immaterial thing which has influence on our bodies, it should be measurable." And meant to extend to god, too. If a god is there, his/hers/its/... (I'm telling you, I'm not particular about properties like gender, whether he has a grey beard, green punk hair or tentacles; the size, mass, energy,...) influence should be measurable.

    On the other hand if you want to talk about free will that is something else entirely. According to Descartes each of us has free will and that is a prerequisite to studying the world around us. Furthermore our free and independent mind must be given to us by God.
    If you assume there is a god! And I think you're assuming even more in this sentence: that god is somehow able to steer us like puppets and has actively cutted the strings to make us free-willed. But if there isn't a puppeteer to begin with... free will is much easier to understand. And I'm a great fan of Ockham: if two different theories describe the same effect, choose the easiest.

    Whether people realize it or not we implicitly believe in free will when we give weight to the conclusions of science.
    True. Moreover, for science to work you need to believe in other things too: that there is a sort of structure to our universe, that it's predictable, and that our senses don't mislead us. Most people actually believe in that - maybe not if you ask them right out, but they live as if they do. They go home after work as if they are sure their house is still there and didn't mutate into an octopus! You don't even think about that!

    The ocean in my metaphor was meant to represent everything that exists, not simply the atmosphere. I apologize if the metaphor did not make my point clear. I realize that all metaphors have their limitations.
    The universe has been measured too. Maybe we didn't see everything yet. Maybe there exist more universes, just like at some point we realised there exist more than one solar system. It's very well possible. But its existence (maybe only of a part of "everything") has been measured. Its size? Like I said in the beginning - there is a lower bound.

    Did you find a part of god yet? Did you find a lower bound?
    I only found upper bounds to him (her,...): his influence is not significantly bigger than pure chance.
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  10. #470
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    Angry God will not be mocked.

    The existence of God is plausible to many thousands of millions (billions) of people. And the existence of God is implausible to a tiny number of people.

    And what is plausible is believable.

    However what is plausible is threatened by what is implausible. And we are now seeing that threat met with violence.

    It is quite natural to defend one's beliefs with violence. We see beliefs defended every day here with insults and violence is not far off. I read in the newspaper that the USA is preparing its population for Islamicn nuclear attack to avoid panic.

    God will not be mocked.

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