Thursday, July 9, 2009

Proofs of God's Non-Existence

Are there disproofs of God's existence? I shutter to think. (Maybe that's my problem.) Tell me how I can know that God does not exist.

31 comments:

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Right here: http://summersquirrel.blogspot.com/2009/07/proof-there-is-no-god.html ;-)

CyberKitten said...

LB said: Tell me how I can *know* that God does not exist.

You can't.... as far as I know.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Oh no, the video I linked to totally proved it. ;-)

CRL said...

You can't prove or disprove God beyond doubt. When I mentioned a disproof of God's existence, I meant a piece of evidence against, not a complete disproof.

Kevin Parry said...

I don't believe there are any absolute disproofs, but there are things that we should expect to observe in the universe if the god of the Judeo-Christian tradition exists as the Bible claims. But we don't observe these things. This doesn't absolutely disprove the God of the Bible, but it provides some room for serious doubt.

Laughing Boy said...

Mike: Good to hear from you again. Thanks for the link. I haven't watched it yet, but I'll try to soon.

CK: Me neither.

Mike: :-)

CRL: Yes, proving the negative is a pretty tall order. I just wondered if you had come across some especially compelling argument against God's existence.

Kevin: I think the actual world exhibits a great deal of similarity to the world of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yes, there is a lot of suffering in the actual world, but there's a lot of suffering in world of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, too.

Can you give me a few of the actualities that, in your mind, don't square with said tradition?

All: Thanks.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: I just wondered if you had come across some especially compelling argument against God's existence.

Only a complete lack of evidence to support the conclusion that God exists....

Works for me.

Jason said...

like looking for a compelling argument against the existence of the celestial teapot

Laughing Boy said...

Mike. The video was very funny. Thanks.

Jason (and Cyberkitten): Here's a section of an interesting piece about Russell's Celestial Teapot argument:

****

But the real appeal to atheists and agnostics of the Teapot passage rests on a third move Russell makes. He is clearly suggesting that belief in God (i.e., belief that God exists) is epistemically on a par with believing in a celestial teapot. Just as we have no reason to believe in celestial teapots, irate lunar unicorns (lunicorns?), flying spaghetti monsters, and the like, we have no reason to believe in God. But perhaps we should distinguish between a strong and a weak reading of Russell's suggestion:

S. Just as we cannot have any reason to believe that an empirically undetectable celestial teapot exists, we cannot have any reason to believe that God exists.
W. Just as we do not have any reason to believe that a celestial teapot exists, we do not have any reason to believe that God exists.

****

Here's the link to the full (very short) piece.

Just in case: http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1169851433.shtml

Enjoy.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

The main reason that I like the argument is that I think the point is this: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof is on the theist.

You are right about the arguments flaw / weakness. Historically people have believed in many different versions of a God or Gods. It has certainly not just been some trick of reason or proof that they were somehow "duped" into this belief. Nor is it belief in some arbitrary non-personal meaningless fact.

I personally believe that most fundamentalist interpretations of religious texts no longer seem plausible, or even meaningful. That's not to say that I don't think many religious texts have a lot to offer concerning finding meaning/purpose / contentment in life. There are multiple ways to interpret most religious belief systems. I just recently read this article at USA today online- http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/04/fightin-words.html

-J

Laughing Boy said...

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof is on the theist.

Since when has the concept of god been an extraordinary claim? The very foundations of Western thought include propositions of the existence of god in one form or another. By any measure atheism is the new kid on the metaphysical block.

I also respectfully reject the idea that I bear any responsibility to prove my position on God's existence to anyone but myself. On that count I irrefutably trust my own perceptions.

There are multiple ways to interpret most religious belief systems.

There are multiple ways to interpret even the simplest of statements if we put our minds to it. Remember "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is"?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"I also respectfully reject the idea that I bear any responsibility to prove my position on God's existence to anyone but myself."

I agree.

The burden of proof is on those who expect others to accept what they believe. If I ask you to believe in God I should be able to give you reasons why. If I ask you to not believe in God I should also be able to give you some good reasons.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: Since when has the concept of god been an extraordinary claim?

Personally I consider it a *very* extraordinary claim.

LB said: The very foundations of Western thought include propositions of the existence of god in one form or another.

Even if true - so what? Just because the idea of a god or gods (two very different things) has been around for a long time doesn't mean that it is any less an extraordinary claim to make.

LB said: By any measure atheism is the new kid on the metaphysical block.

...and another 'so what' comment. Because modern atheism is comparatively new does not mean it has significantly less worth than an age old idea. I, of course, consider it to have significantly *more* worth.....

Laughing Boy said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, Mike.

CK: I'd want it proven to me that it is extraordinary (since I don't think it is) before I accept any obligation incumbent on me because it's alleged to be extraordinary. By referencing the history of Western thought I'm just trying to see where anyone gets the idea that theism is an odd and unfounded postulation.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: By referencing the history of Western thought I'm just trying to see where anyone gets the idea that theism is an odd and unfounded postulation.

Oh, I don't think its particularly odd - but I do think its unfounded.

Laughing Boy said...

To be unfounded an idea must lack a rational basis, or at least a plausible one. The idea of God is not in that category. For example:

P1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause for it's coming into being.
P2: The universe began to exist.
C: Therefore, the universe had a cause for it's coming into being.

The conclusion follows from the premises, and the premises are plausible (to say the least), so how can it be said that the person who accepts this argument does so without foundation?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Because I'm a radical solipsist, you are all in my head.

Laughing Boy said...

Untrue! We're not in your head because you're a radical solipsist; we're all in here because there is nowhere else could we be. Of course the terms "we" and "you" are meaningless—the scaffolding of the illusion.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Indeed

CyberKitten said...

LB said: To be unfounded an idea must lack a rational basis, or at least a plausible one.

Exactly my thoughts....

LB said: The idea of God is not in that category.

I happen to disagree.

LB said: Whatever begins to exist has a cause for it's coming into being.

Questionable. Apparently such things don't apply at the quantum level - which may explain the origin of the universe.

Oh, does that premise also apply to God BTW? But God has 'always' existed... right? [grin]

LB said: The universe began to exist.

Apparently time and the universe 'began' at the same 'time'. Normal day-to-day concepts struggle with things like that. That's why its better understood in mathematics rather than common English.

LB said: Therefore, the universe had a cause for it's coming into being.

Possibly - but that doesn't necessarily mean that God was the cause. Just because the universe exists it doesn't follow that God also exists.

LB said: The conclusion follows from the premises, and the premises are plausible (to say the least), so how can it be said that the person who accepts this argument does so without foundation?

The conclusion that God created the universe is completely unfounded based upon what we actually know. It is an enormous leap of faith - belief without a scrap of evidence.

Laughing Boy said...

Oh, does that premise also apply to God BTW? But God has 'always' existed... right?

Right. God did not begin to exist. Existence is his essence. If absolutely everything required a beginning then nothing would exist. Therefore it seems that at least one thing ("outside" the universe, of course) must exist without a beginning or cause, a necessary being. This is not inarguably true, but it is a quite plausible (rational/founded) conclusion to anyone free from the metaphysical limitations of a materialistic atheism.

Just because the universe exists it doesn't follow that God also exists.
I suppose not, but that's not what I said. According to the argument as I stated it, what does follow?

The conclusion that God created the universe is completely unfounded based upon what we actually know.
We don't "actually know" very much, but we can still make "founded" assumptions. For example, members of a jury don't "actually know" if the accused is guilty (if they did they would be disqualified from serving), but they must render a verdict regardless. We can be pretty sure that nothing comes from nothing. Any person who thinks about the origin of the universe can come to one of a few tentative conclusions. 1) It's eternal (contra science), 2) it arose out of nothing without cause (contra common sense), or 3) it was caused by a being or beings that transcend the universe (contra atheism). I'm not obliged to choose the first or second to avoid considering the third.

Jason said...

LB said: "I also respectfully reject the idea that I bear any responsibility to prove my position on God's existence to anyone but myself. On that count I irrefutably trust my own perceptions."

I agree with this statement, but was a little surprised to see it in a thread titled "Proofs of God's Non-Existence". I don't think God's existence needs to be proved if you are considering your own personal beliefs and what meaning such beliefs bring to your life. Proof's might be called for however in other realms, such as when religious beliefs start to influence public policy or law.

-Jason

Laughing Boy said...

This thread is in reaction to a comment CRL made on another blog: "I meant that while the crucifixion story, if it were true, would be proof of God's love, but the many holes in the New Testament add to the many disproofs of God's existence." This caused me to ask which particular disproofs he meant; hence the title and the thread which, as you can see, hasn't generated much in the way of disproofs.

I think God's existence is a reasonable metaphysical conclusion based on the nature of things, especially ourselves. I don't mean to say that belief in God, or the value of such belief, is based primarily on what subjective meaning it might have for a particular person.

The God question is only one example of a broader epistemological issue. What can a person rationally believe? Do you have to convince a skeptic in order claim to hold a justified belief? On the other hand, can you believe any old thing if it makes you happy or brings meaning to your life and be justified in believing it? In both cases the answer is no.

Proof's might be called for however in other realms, such as when religious beliefs start to influence public policy or law.

The founding documents of the United States contain statements of religious beliefs that, as far as I know, did not require proof. But, if proofs are required it would apply to atheists as much as theists, since at issue is a person's view of the fundamental principles of the universe, i.e. how the world works. One's views on these matters are metaphysical assumptions. (I think that whatever position one takes it is rightly called a "religious view" in a broad sense.) Why should a person who views the world as the purposeless interaction of matter have have carte blanche in the public square while the person who doesn't is denied a voice? A free society allows it's citizens to participate in the public sphere regardless of their religious views, and it is expected that they will make decisions based on those views.

Jason said...

There is a key difference between atheists and theists. The atheist, would say, "let's look at the observable universe, and make decisions and draw conclusions based upon what we can know or reasonably infer", the theist takes the unexplained or unexplainable, and instead of saying "well we can't currently explain this" (for instance the origins of the universe), the theist invokes "God". It doesn't seem correct to assert that proof would be required of each group, when the atheists are from the beginning only working with what they directly observe and not invoking fantastic or supernatural explanations for the way the world / universe works.
Also, your attempts to engage atheists in real, helpful discussion, (if that is what you want) will not be helped by statements such as "a person who views the world as the purposeless interaction of matter". This statement is far from the truth of what many atheists believe. I'm not sure if you were just intentionally caricaturing the atheist belief position or if you genuinely think that all atheists believe this, or that perhaps their belief boils down to this through some necessity of logic (many would disagree). I practiced Christianity for much of my life and I am annoyed by atheist caricatures of the Christian God, because I know that they reflect a lack of understanding of theism, and also do nothing to bolster the atheists argument or to reach any sort of mutual understanding. I try not to characterize God as some big daddy in the sky throwing down thunderbolts when people make him unhappy.



-Jason

Laughing Boy said...

Gaylord Simpson:
"...man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind."

"Man is the result of a materialistic process having no purpose or intent; he represents the highest fortuitous organizational form of matter and energy."

Douglas Futuyma:
"Some shrink from the conclusion that the human species was not designed, has no purpose, and is the product of mere mechanical mechanisms - but this seems to be the message of evolution.

"...biology provides no evidence for omnipotence, intelligence, purpose, or design."

Richard Dawkins:
"We humans are obsessed with purpose. The question, “What is it for?” comes naturally to a species surrounded by tools, utensils and machines. For such artifacts it is appropriate, but then we go too far. We apply the “What is it for?” question to rocks, mountains, stars or the universe, where it has no place.

"How about living things? Unlike rocks and mountains, animals and plants, wings and eyes, webbed feet and leaves, all present a powerful illusion of design. Since Darwin, we have understood that this, too, is an illusion. Nevertheless, it is such a powerful illusion that the language of purpose is almost irresistible. Huge numbers of people are seriously misled by it...

Steven J. Gould:
"... I suspect a more important reason for Lamarckism's continuing appeal, lies in its offer of some comfort against a universe devoid of intrinsic meaning for our lives"

Jean-Paul Sartre:
"Life has no meaning a priori … It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose."

---

These last two quotes go together in affirming no intrinsic meaning or value for human life (or anything else far as I can tell) from within a materialistic atheistic perspective. If your life has only whatever meaning you choose, then you may choose to assign it no meaning. Or you may choose to give your life value and I may choose to give it none, and take it from you.

Maybe not all atheists buy into these ideas, but what, within their atheism, do they find to refute it?

So I've given just a few examples supporting my view of atheism—and they were all from educated and respected people. Please provide some examples from educated and respected theists saying, "well I can't currently explain this, so I invoke God".

You are aware that there are many Christians working productively and successfully in the fields of science and philosophy, aren't you? How could this be given this "key difference"? Please explain.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: Maybe not all atheists buy into these ideas, but what, within their atheism, do they find to refute it?

Good quotes. I'd buy into that.

Jason said...

I will supply one quote. From Isaac Newton. Intro text is quoted from Shermer's "why Darwin Matters".

"[the god of the gaps arguments] is comparable to the "place problem" of Isaac Newton's time: The planets all lie in a plane and revolve about the sun in the same direction. Newton found this arrangement to be so improbable that he invoked God as an explanation at the end of his magisterial work principia Mathematica: "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being". Why don't creationsists use this argument any more? Because astronomers have filled that gap with a natural explanation. "

Other examples are so common no scholarly quotes are needed.
Where did people come from ? God created man out of nothing. What about the earth? Created out of nothing.

Nowhere do I suggest that Christian's should be unable to be scientists or philosophers. All I am talking about is a difference in how we treat things that are currently unexplainable by science. This difference is more clear to us in the present if we look into what people have believed in the past, such as the newton example. More primitive and ancient cultures probably had more beliefs of this kind, such as God's likely direct involvement in moving the sun around the earth each day, or in creating storms, thunder and lightning. Now that we know how these things happen naturally we do not invoke God to explain them.

Jason said...

Also, please do not forget the context in which I first mentioned the different perspective atheists and theists take on the observable universe. You were asking why any one group should have a privileged voice in the public square. So in response, I was suggesting that working with what we can know and observe seems to me to be a better was to run a country comprised of people who follow many different belief systems. Have a separation of church and state. Do not let the church influence the state and have power over those who do not share it's beliefs. It seems to me that a group invoking "God' in it's policymaking might first want substantial "proof" (referring back to this threads original topic) of this God's existence. It should also be clear that the existence of God, and certainly of a particular God, does not really lend itself to "proof" at all, and in most religious systems, it is a matter of faith. That being said, I think it follows that a more neutral point of view should take precedence in the public square. If it does not, you end up with people pushing political agendas on religious grounds, such as banning gay marriage.

Laughing Boy said...

CK:
Thanks. Talk to Jason, will you?

Jason:
I think the Newton quote can be taken to mean that God is the ultimate, or final cause, and not the immediate or efficient cause. Nonetheless, even if we stipulate that Newton is the posterboy for God-of-the-Gaps thinking, we are still left with the fact that his quasi-theistic (he was a deist) presumptions did not hinder him from doggedly investigating the universe and moving science forward significantly in his day. Your point seems to be that the public voice of theists should be marginalized because they are unable to function at the same level as the atheist due some limitation their theistic presumptions places on their inquisitiveness or acuity. On this point I think Newton is a better witness for my case than for yours.

That being said, I think it follows that a more neutral point of view should take precedence in the public square. If it does not, you end up with people pushing political agendas on religious grounds, such as banning gay marriage.

I take great exception to the idea that atheism is a neutral point of view. However, I find myself wanting to agree with your earlier statement:

I was suggesting that working with what we can know and observe seems to me to be a better way to run a country comprised of people who follow many different belief systems.

But taking both of these statements together I become perplexed. Is your point that we can best govern a society comprised of people of many belief systems by restricting those very people from participating in public policy? If so, I disagree. We can best do that by having many belief systems represented at the table of public policy, not by shutting out all belief systems except one, don't you think? Fortunately, our founding fathers thought so.

Jason said...

I did not say directly that atheism was a neutral point of view. Strong atheism, (God certainly does not exist and/or it can be proven so) would certainly not be a neutral point of view. Perhaps, "since we can not know for sure one way or the other if God exists, let's not let this point be the basis for our decision making". That's my best quick off the top of my head attempt at that.

LB said:"Is your point that we can best govern a society comprised of people of many belief systems by restricting those very people from participating in public policy? "

What I would say is that anyone participating in PUBLIC policy making recognize that good public policy is to allow everyone the right to practice their own beliefs fully to the extent that their beliefs and practices do not infringe on others basic freedoms and rights, and not to force one's own religious agenda onto unwilling or unbelieving others. Of course multiple viewpoints could be helpful as long as people recognize this. And yes, I agree, thankfully the founding fathers recognized this in creating the bill of rights / constitution and recognizing the need for a separation of church and state.

-Jason