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Do you believe a God exists? posted 01 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Preliminary notes

Interesting discussion, this, albeit one that has been held many times before. Still, this time I participate myself. It's a good mental exercise, I think, to really try and explain one's views to a stranger.

I do wonder, Andrew, what your exact position in the debate is? You obviously believe that some intelligent creator made the universe. But I do wonder what your other beliefs are. Do you also believe in a more conventional god, i.e. judeo-christian-muslim? Or just a creator, a "first cause" of the universe?

Anyway, your post. My reply is going to be a long one. (well, it's tricky to explain one's worldview in a few sentences. And you did ask...) To the other worthy members of this forum, my apologies for what basically amounts to something like a thread-hijack. I guess it was inevitable once this subject reared it's head.

Quote: "Andrew":1nq10sw6
Well Randall, I would say based on your answer that you basically AGREE with my point![/quote:1nq10sw6]

Yes, my first assertion was not very logical. It was a bit of an afterthought, a casual reference to my position, but irrelevant to my argument. (That we were talking about two different ideas called "god".) It was a line I added at the last minute, and did not really clarify my beliefs. (well, I wasn't really expecting a debate like this.)

I stand by the second post, as well as the gist of the first. I still reject X, because there is no reason to accept it, and it is less plausible than other, albeit equally unsatisfying answers. (as far as I can see.) Note that this does not mean I really accept Y either, just that I think it's a possibility, which I'll stick to until new evidence is forthcoming.

Onto the main issue

Quote: "Andrew":1nq10sw6
{snip}I would be curious to know what it would require for God to prove his existence to you if creating a universe of staggering complexity isn't enough!{snip}[/quote:1nq10sw6]

Yes, that's where the difference lies between our views.

Quote: "Andrew":1nq10sw6
{another snip}Outside of the mind of men there is no such thing as "chance" or "random" or "unpredictable".{snip}[/quote:1nq10sw6]

That sentence goes part of the way towards the answer. Chance and random do exist outside the minds of men, in my worldview. (quantum processes and all that.) Things that go one way could just as well go another. God (or in my case, the universe) does indeed play dice. A lot can be predicted, and many chances are so heavily weighed one way or another that the possibility of something else happening is virtually negligible, but in the end everything is the result of a chance process. Everything is random.

In such a worldview, the existence of the universe proves nothing about a creator. Order can come from chaos all by itself, if left alone long enough. And long enough is easy if infinity is at your disposal.

But, now to formulate an answer to the important question;

"what would god need to do to prove his existence to me?"

Which is, indeed, a tricky question to answer. One I have considered before, but which will still need some thought to arrive at a reasonably clear answer.

Ultimately, it would depend on the kind of god we're talking about.

The judeo-christian-muslim-buddhist whatever else you can think of gods that make up 99% of the world's religions, all make claim to influencing the world in one way or another. To prove their existence, that influence would need to be proven. Miracles would need to be shown, efficacy of prayer detected, proof of reincarnation found, etc. Depends on the exact variant of religion.

In a more general sense, for me to even consider the existence of these kinds of deities, scientific research would have to prove the existence of the supernatural in one way or another. Should that happen, I will completely re-evaluate my worldview, and start considering the religions as possible fact, rather than regarding them as nonsense.

Note, however, that this does not mean I'd convert. Even if christianity, to take the most obvious example, proved to be true in all it's various claims, I doubt I would turn to worship God. I don't really understand why people worship anything, be he the creator of the universe or the emperor of Hulaland. Same for morals. I do what I believe good, and will not consciously alter my positions just because it turns out some god is watching my moves from heaven. I'm not a very worshippy person, I guess.

But, all this is concerning the second kind of god I discussed earlier. The acting god, not the first variant, who is merely the "first cause."

The claim of the first cause "god" is far more ephemeral than the second one. Where the second one claims to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, whatever, the first one merely claims to be the invisible, intangible, untraceable reason the universe exists. A hard claim to either prove, or disprove. Such a creator would exist outside of our universe, in all probability, and not be subject to the laws of nature by which we live and by which all our research is conducted. Such a "god" might not want to prove his existence, might not be able to by virtue of his position outside the universe. He need not even be sentient as we see it.

Which means my position on this one is rather less firm than on the other. Dismissing it out of hand, when so little is or can be proven, would be a bit premature, I think. But I still don't accept the claim the universe must have a creator, for precisely the same reason. It's so easy to claim something unprovable exists. It's a tired old analogy, but here goes anyway: how does one disprove the existence of invisible purple unicorns living on the far side of the galaxy? The only possibility would be to travel to every planet in the galaxy with supersophisticated sensors capable of finding even invisible pink unicorns. Only once every place has been visited could one safely claim they do not exist. But with our current technology, this is not possible, or desirable. So in the meantime, I'll dismiss their existence based on the burden of proof and probability. Something does not exist unless there is proof, or at least a good reason to assume it does.

All of which does not answer the question "how would a creator/first cause go about proving his existence, when that may well be impossible by definition." (if it is completely separated from the physical universe and hence undetectable by beings limited by it's constraints.)

On consideration, my answer would be that it is impossible for such a god to prove it's existence, or for us to prove it, because the concept thought up here is too abstract, too remote and too alien to be subjected to conventional research.

Maybe, one day in the future, with advanced technology and tools, we'll be able to truly examine the origins of the universe, and come to some kind of conclusion. Only a few hundred years ago, it was impossible to think of some non-divine alternative explanation for the existence of life, let alone humans. Now, there are extensive theories to explain these things. Maybe the origins of the universe will one day be unveiled as well.

But right now, I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a "first cause." Be that as it may, I still choose not to believe in it, because for me that is the more logical way to approach a subject. I will not believe in something unprovable unless there is a reason to do so. If that means I disregard something that in the future will be proven to be true, so be it. I'd rather be overly sceptical than credulous. (note: I am not accusing you of credulity. I just state that with the worldview I have described, belief in god for me would require credulousness.)

Wrapping things up

After this already long post, I think it's fairly safe to state that our difference of opinion arises basically from a disagreement of what constitutes he evidence in this case. You believe in a creator, because to you the universe is obviously/logically something that must have been created by an intelligence, a god.

I, however, have no problems whatsoever with ascribing something so complex and wonderful as the universe or even the laws of nature to something as basic as the result of mere chance and random processes which we do not yet understand. Or something else entirely, such as hyperintelligent aliens from the umpteenth dimension, or another kind of creator. Or I could see it as something that simply always has existed, and has no origin or cause as we understand it. Therefore, where you see evidence for one thing, I see an unexplained phenomenon which may have for which we have multiple widely differring possible explanations, none of which need be true, and some of which sound more implausible to me than others.

Now, I'd better get some sleep, as this reply took rather longer than I expected. I don't think I need to reply to your "maybe Andrew is cosmic radiation" analogy, which is quite as ridiculous as my invisible purple unicorns and would only cause confusion. This post is quite long enough. view post


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