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← Dawkins and Grayling: can there be evidence for god?

Bonzai's Avatar Jump to comment 124 by Bonzai

Again these are not taken to be part of a definition of 'god' but as properties of an actual existent object.

Definitions are attempts to capture the essence of supposedly existent objects/relationship. The empirical sciences (physics, say) use definitions as well.

Even in math, the working mathematicians' idea of definitions are closer to that of the empirical scientists than that of arm chaired philosophers. Many mathematicians think of mathematical relationship as having an "objective" existence (say magnitudes and shapes and their relationships) while formal definitions are device to capture these relationships. The natural and real numbers were known long before people such as Peano , Frege and Dedekind attempted to formalize them. They arose from studying relationships and rules concerning magnitude and counting quite independent from the formal theory (engineers and scientists use these concepts in very sophisticated way without ever studying the Peano axioms or Dedekind's cut). So these logicians were working on some formal models of a priori existent objects/relationship (I am simplifying a bit but I think you get my main point)

Philosophers and logicians often exaggerate the formal aspect of mathematics and they like to use set theory as an example, but Set theory is actually very far from the mainstream of mathematics. For most "interesting" mathematics naive set theory is quite sufficient and paradoxes can be avoided quite easily by limiting the discourse appropriately. Formal ZFC seldom comes up.

So I agree with Bethe123 regarding definitions. The theologians are trying to describe "God" in a formal way by coming up with a list, that is their attempt at a definition, but the list is inconsistent so their definition fails. But it doesn't mean that there is no being which would qualify to most believers as God.

Honestly, do you think it would make a difference if there is a being who is almost like God in the way that theologians describe except that he cannot square the circle or eat himself for breakfast ? (but Jesus could actually eat himself for breakfast if he drops by a Catholic Mass and takes the communion!) To most people, the alpha -omega thing is just a way of saying "really big" I don't think that needs to be taken literally, as beyond a certain point it is just difficult to imagine the fine difference like whether it is alpha or actually alpha 3 or a beta, so i think Steve is just nitpicking semantics.

Thu, 17 Mar 2011 12:43:51 UTC | #603930