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← You can't prove that you love someone, so don't expect proof of God

You can't prove that you love someone, so don't expect proof of God - Comments

ClemIsMe's Avatar Comment 1 by ClemIsMe

I generally wing it.

"Love is an emotion. Is God an emotion? Because if that is your argument, that God is a biochemical reaction in the brain based on thousands of succesful generations of evolutionary necessity, babyman, I am right there with ya. God is a reaction to your own mortality and ignorance, coupled with your feral urge to do as little as possible to get answers to hard questions. I would not dispute that. But if you are suggesting that God is a thing somewhere apart from your brain that does things and accomplishes goals and such, then you are implying Love is that sort of thing as well, and we have the same problem we started with: you make insane claims you can't back up."

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 15:20:00 UTC | #77610

Tanglewood's Avatar Comment 2 by Tanglewood

Rebuttal: I don't need to prove that I experience subjective states of mind. You are claiming that God exists independently of our beliefs concerning him. In other words, that He exists in objective reality and that you stand in relation to Him such that His existence is itself the reason for your belief. This is a claim that demands empirical corroboration. If I were asking you to prove that you believed in God, your analogy would hold water, because I would be asking you to present proof of your state of mind. However, I am not asking you to prove that. I am asking you to back up your claim that God exists in the same way you or I exist. In much the same way that you would surely demand proof if I claimed that Superman existed, I have a right to expect proof from you when you claim God exists.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 15:22:00 UTC | #77612

Linda's Avatar Comment 3 by Linda

There is physical proof of love and it is observable and experiential through the senses. Looking on, hearing the voice of, touching, scent and taste of the beloved and those we love fraternally, our family and friends induces feelings of emotional well-being and happiness in us and them. Our loving relationships with others are sustained and enhanced through interactive, reciprocal acts of kindness, protection, loyalty and nurture.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 15:38:00 UTC | #77626

Mango's Avatar Comment 4 by Mango

Rebuttal: "Proving an emotion and proving the existence of an intellectual being are two very different tasks. No, I can't prove to you that I love my wife, but I can prove that she exists. Nevertheless, I expect a reasonable person to believe me when I say I love my wife. Likewise, I believe you when you assert that you love God, but I refuse to believe that God exists on only your word. I'm afraid you have a very real love for a very imaginary being."

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 15:42:00 UTC | #77630

Augustus Osari's Avatar Comment 5 by Augustus Osari

I'd warn strongly against any "the existence of my emotions and the existence of God are different" argument. It implies the belief in a soul, which is clearly irrational.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 15:48:00 UTC | #77635

Damien White's Avatar Comment 6 by Damien White

I can and will expect proof of god, because my belief in the existence of love does not require me to adhere to certain modes of behaviour which are counter-intuitive.
For example, love does not require me to sit in a certain building on Sundays. Love does not dictate what I can and can't eat. Love does not tell me with whom I can choose to co-habit. Love does not ask me to send money to a man on television.
'God' does all of these things, so when 'he/she/it' does, I ask for proof of god's existence before I obey. That's only reasonable. So yes, I do expect proof of gods existence before I follow 'his' rules, because otherwise I might suspect that some wierd control freak was simply making them up to please himself, then invoking the almighty for added authority.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 15:58:00 UTC | #77641

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 7 by aquilacane

If love is a feeling and only a feeling, then they are right, I cannot prove I love. If, in the future, we discover that those people who claim to be in love demonstrate a unique chemical trace or brain pattern that is unique to the claimants of love, then perhaps I will be able, if it turns out that I actually am in love.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:06:00 UTC | #77645

maton100's Avatar Comment 8 by maton100

You can't prove that you hate someone either.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:50:00 UTC | #77669

phasmagigas's Avatar Comment 9 by phasmagigas

a slightly silly rebuttal but looks like we are getting a good selection of rebuttals for different people and on different occasions! I have already started picking my favourite bits, seems we need soundbites too.

if i hit your thumb with a hammer you will shout out in pain, I have proved (by most peoples standards) that your brain has experienced a sensation and by your logic you should also be able to show me evidence for god.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:55:00 UTC | #77671

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 10 by Chrysippus_Maximus

This question originates in William James' "The Will To Believe."

You can CERTAINLY PROVE that SOMEONE loves YOU. (which is the actual problem, not that YOU love someone, since everyone knows when they love someone... since if you don't know if you love someone, then you don't).

William James gave the speech "The Will To Believe" as a response to William Clifford's "The Ethics of Belief", wherein it was argued that: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone to believe ANYTHING without sufficient evidence."

James' response (the pragmatist that he was) was to find examples of things we WANT to believe, but for which we have no evidence, but which BECOME TRUE AFTER we start believing in them, rather than being true a priori.

Love is his strongest example. And if fails prima facie.

I know my girlfriend loves me because she gives me lots and lots of hints. (EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE!!!)

If I was a philosophical skeptic, I would ask myself "Yeah, but how do I REALLY know she loves me, since she could just be ACTING, and the phenomenological state of ACTING would appear to me the same as the TRUE state."

But I'm not a skeptic, and anyway, the skeptic about love is just being silly, for reasons elucidated by NUMEROUS philosophers with regard to the Brain In A Vat scenario (see: Hilary Putnam, G.E. Moore, etc).

So there.

I'm going to answer every single one of these debate points with my awesome Philosopher Powers. :)

... I have been annoyed and disappointed by public atheists' rebuttals to these questions in the past, because philosophers answered all of them LONG ago.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 19:27:00 UTC | #77730

tommyboy's Avatar Comment 11 by tommyboy

Love is an empirical measurement of personal value and sacrifice.

It is our mortality not our faith or attachment to the supernatural that allow us access to the abstract concepts of value and meaning. In our finite existence we can measure the value of those meaningful to us. Love is the expression of a value assessment.

I can clearly articulate the meaning that my wife adds to my existence and measure this value against other life elements; career, children, family, friends and personal-time.

This measurement does not diminish the meaning of love as this value should not be mystical or be left to the realm of fate or faith. Love is real and tangible and essential.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 19:42:00 UTC | #77736

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 12 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Love is an empirical measurement of personal value and sacrifice.


Be careful not to define yourself into a hole.

All the theist has to do here is deny your definition of love and you're sunk.

Stick to logical arguments that avoid strict definitions of terms, especially empirically.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 20:14:00 UTC | #77749

Rob3fm's Avatar Comment 13 by Rob3fm

This is one of the better points that theists make, actually. It isn't convincing as an argument for God's existence, but at least it gives an atheist a better understanding of what it's like to believe something that's "in one's heart" that just can't be proved to someone else. Ultimately, there are certain things we just have to trust about each other--to a degree.

In order to say we believe or don't believe in God, we must first define what God is, and it's the same with love. In order to tell someone I love him or her, we must agree on what love means. Maybe someday we will agree on the brain activity that correlates to the feelings we call love, but the feeling itself is something we must assume is the same, much like our assumptions about color looking the same to two different people. Based on the similarities in human construction and behavior, it's a reasonable assumption to make that we can trust each other about what love is. If we agree on what the feeling of love is, and the recognizable patterns of behavior are there, then it's a reasonable assumption. If my wife believes that I love her, that's not blind faith based solely on a feeling. Contrary evidence could sway her belief in my love for her. Certainly a cunning person could convince someone else of his or her (false) love for another with appropriate behavior. Or someone could tell someone he or she loves another unconvincingly. My point is, people's feelings could be wrong in some situations, but in most cases the recognizable patterns of behavior are convincing enough to be safely "believed."

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 20:18:00 UTC | #77753

Conrad's Avatar Comment 14 by Conrad

Though I can't PROVE that I love someone or not, I can give evidence to such an end which my lover will judge by what she believes loving actions to be.

To continue this Idea I'll quote DCTalk, "Love is a verb". If god gives me nothing to make a decision upon then it is just as likely that he hates me and wishes me harm. The natural world would seem to argue for such an answer.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 00:21:00 UTC | #77846

bitbutter's Avatar Comment 15 by bitbutter

As has been mentioned, it doesn't make sense to ask me to prove to myself that I'm experiencing a state of mind that I call love!

I've seen this argument expressed more often in something like this form: "Not all that we say we know is rooted in evidence. For instance how can you know that someone else loves you?"

But as Richard Dawkins and others have pointed out, if you're mentally healthy and you're fairly certain that someone else loves you, that certainty is completely based on an accumulation of evidence (evidences of the trustworthiness of the person, what the person has said to you, their body language, etc).

Some people really do believe that someone else loves them despite their being no real evidence for that belief but we identify this as a form of mental illness.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 01:13:00 UTC | #77880

GBG's Avatar Comment 16 by GBG

I can't prove i love someone because "love" exists only in my brain. Is god unprovable for the same reason?

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 01:15:00 UTC | #77881

JerryD385's Avatar Comment 17 by JerryD385

Jesus loves you.

He just can't prove it.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 04:31:00 UTC | #77958

Bertybob's Avatar Comment 18 by Bertybob

"Love does not ask me to send money to a man on Television"


LOL! ;o)

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 04:41:00 UTC | #77961

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 20 by irate_atheist

Which particular God?

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 04:45:00 UTC | #77964

Buddha's Avatar Comment 19 by Buddha

A quick google came up with this potted summary on the biochemical basis of "love":http://people.howstuffworks.com/love6.htm

Even if not 100% correct it shows that there are many avenues of scientific endeavour on the subject

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 04:45:00 UTC | #77963

FKereki's Avatar Comment 21 by FKereki

At the very least, I do love me, and I have a lifetime of pampering myself to prove it!

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 05:08:00 UTC | #77980

avi972's Avatar Comment 22 by avi972

I actually thought about this while listening to Richard Dawkings' debate with John Lennox.

If a person off the street tells you she loves you, you don't believe her. You think she's crazy. Or that she wan't money.

If someone you vaguely know tells you that, you may believe her, but you will have a lot of questions to ask. When/How did this happen etc.

If your Wife/Girlfriend/Family member tells you this you believe them.("you have faith that they are telling the truth")

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 08:07:00 UTC | #78057

funkyderek's Avatar Comment 23 by funkyderek

Is there in principle a test that could prove the existence of love?
Is there in principle a test that could prove the existence of God?

If the answer to these questions is different then the comparison is not valid.
If the answer to the two questions is the same, then:
If the answer is no, we can never know anything useful about love or about God.
If the answer is yes, then we can set about devising a practical test.

Personally I think that the answer to both questions is yes, as long as both subjects are clearly defined.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 09:40:00 UTC | #78102

sidfaiwu's Avatar Comment 24 by sidfaiwu

"You can't prove that you love someone, so don't expect proof of God"

I don't expect a proof for God, but one can collect evidence of love through observation of behavior.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 10:20:00 UTC | #78117

Vadjong's Avatar Comment 25 by Vadjong

You can't prove that you love someone YET[?], so don't expect proof of God EVER.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 11:55:00 UTC | #78179

Shocking Blue's Avatar Comment 26 by Shocking Blue

One of those irrational arguments that twisted-minded god-believers come out with. Of course we expect some sort of "proof" or "signal" that people we expect to love us, do love us. And we do the same thing back. And we also know exactly, when such signals are not or no longer there. Would I believe that someone loves me if there's not slightest hint that this is in fact the case?

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 13:40:00 UTC | #78236

Mewtwo_X's Avatar Comment 27 by Mewtwo_X

"Use EEG experiements or design standardized models of human behaviour to determine significant evidence of love. Your statement is therefore false."

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 14:38:00 UTC | #78269

holyfather's Avatar Comment 28 by holyfather

This statement is comparable to saying "I have trouble describing the way an apple tastes, so don't expect me to provide proof for why I am part of a group that has sentenced countless numbers of people to death over the last few thousand years.. and you're going to burn in hell forever because you are not a part of this group."


Thu, 25 Oct 2007 15:54:00 UTC | #78307

Tinky Winky's Avatar Comment 29 by Tinky Winky

Most people who love (excluding religious believers) love someone who physically exists, or has existed. If you have a genuine love for God, Jesus, Allah or some other fictional deity, don't twist the biochemically induced emotion of love into justification for your beliefs or even an argument for their existence, just visit a doctor.


Fri, 26 Oct 2007 05:26:00 UTC | #78568

Aaron's Avatar Comment 30 by Aaron

This is a bit of a strawman because no atheist needs proof of god(s)' existence...only evidence. The same goes for love. As an aside, someone demanding proof that their spouse loved them would be an act of insecurity and a demonstration of an inability to have a healthy relationship.

If the argument is reframed in the context of evidence, instead of proof, it can continue logically.

Evidence of someone's love for another is easily seen by the way the person in love interacts with the other (whether the other has reciprocating feelings or not).

As a secondary argument one could ask the opponent if there is evidence that a random stranger pointed out in an audience is in love with him or her. If the opponent says no and upon being asked why not says he or she doesn't even know the person in the audience he or she has proven there are prerequisites for love that can be used as evidence of its existence (familiarity with the person being one of them) and has proven the point for you.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 09:29:00 UTC | #78643