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God and evidence - a strident proposal - Comments

Zelig's Avatar Comment 1 by Zelig

Not sure i'm understanding you here. As you've amply demonstrated, reason and evidence have little or nothing to do with it; and yet it persists nonetheless (very vigorously in certain quarters). Thus some variation of credo quia absurdum is sure to be embraced. Or in the words of Nietzsche: "who can destroy with reasons what was never established by reasons?". After all, it says in the Bible "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise" ( 1 Corinthians).

Thus we're back were we started. Thus the persistence of religion lies in psychology, sociology, economics, politics etc, and not in bad epistemology. Pointing this out will have a profound effect on only a small number of people.

Sat, 03 Jul 2010 22:31:19 UTC | #486088

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 2 by Rich Wiltshir

I offer two lines of thought, derived from my preferred definition (model) of the deity. First, I suggest there's no scope to prove existence or otherwise; in fact all reasoned interpretations of experience will infer (not prove) non-existence, whereas proof is always derived from an emotional/psychological interpretation. Secondly, I've met no fully reasoned (emotion and blackmail-free) analysis that suggests the deity does exist.

My model of the deity is a never-ending, never-beginning being that relies on nothing for its ongoing survival; an 'infinite, self-existent being,' if I recall my schoolboys' knowledge correctly (from text books of John Hick I think?)

Accepting this definition exposes an imponderable gulf of scale between the deity and human beings; there seems to be no common-ground within which the deity's existence can achieve proof. Any demonstration that's awe-inspiring enough to establish a perception of 'proof' would also be on a scale sufficient for (more) reasonable interpretation as the magic of an advanced culture.

So the definition creates an arena in which the theist can allege proof of her/his assertions, whilst the reasoning individual will take Arthur C Clarke's viewpoint.

However, the theist has accepted reason in the construction of this model and now claims her/his deity to be beyond the realm of reason itself, so expels her/himself from reasoned debate (how often have we known that to happen?). This claim makes the theist's involvement in debate redundant, leaving the exercise to be wholly occupied by reasoning folk.

I suggest that this means proof of a deity's existence is so far from any likely human experience that we're right to take the atheist conclusion (to the degree Dawkins describes, or farther).

But this construct does not demonstrate the non-existence of a deity, just the extreme improbability of being able to prove it does exist. This is where a theist would happily reside; pointing scornful fingers at our absence of faith.
Reason's quest to determine the likelihood of the being's existence (as opposed to the capacity to find proof), travels many other terrains of logic all of which, in my experience, lead to a rational interpretation that there is no deity.

To summarise, I suggest that reason is used in two debates; whether the deity exists AND whether proof is possible either way.

I hope this contributes to the discussion, even though I could be wrong. I'd welcome learning of more holes in these arguments.

Sat, 03 Jul 2010 22:32:37 UTC | #486089

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 3 by Rich Wiltshir

I like David1111's words. Much more succinct than mine, cheers Dave.

Sat, 03 Jul 2010 22:34:09 UTC | #486090

Bennygreen's Avatar Comment 4 by Bennygreen

very enjoyable!!

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 00:26:17 UTC | #486110

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 5 by Alovrin

David 1111 I hate to speak for Steve Zara tho' I think he says it more succintly here. And I dont want to discourage Steve's line of thought in any way though. Go for it Mr Zara.

I'm not sure why you include a biblical quotation. Is that just to say you won't get someone who accepts such a premise to question their faith? And can regard those who examine the "foolish things of this world" with disdain? Maybe, maybe

But lets not be passive in leaving escape clauses littered around our society for future generations to be tripped up on. Lets not let sink into the stagnation the religious want, just so they can thrive.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 00:30:59 UTC | #486111

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 6 by Mark Jones

An im-modest proposal indeed, Steve :-).

Try as I might to be moderate and a-strident, I cannot but agree. The problem, as theists often ask atheists in exasperation, is 'What evidence would you accept for the supernatural?'

But that is the problem, and their problem; no less, no more. To pose the question as if it is a problem for the rationalist is to concede the argument. Better to be honest and embrace the leap of faith that is understood by most believers to be their world-view; since, as Steve points out, Hume has shown the impossibility of an answer to that question. So let's stop asking them for evidence, and ask them to answer their own question.

(I would just add, as a caveat to the article, that wishful thinking, or fear of the unknown, is an explanation for much religious thinking, but it's not exhaustive, apparently.)

Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 01:52:59 UTC | #486122

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 7 by God fearing Atheist

it's infinitely more likely to be a rogue member of the Vogon constructor fleet having fun with their weapons than God.

And if the rogue claimed to be god, and demanded to be worshiped, are you going to argue? :-)

You are correct, we can't tell the difference between mischievous aliens and real god(s). However, for all practical purposes the challenge to theists should still be - "provide evidence for real gods or aliens faking gods". Once that evidence has been supplied, we then have the problem of distinguishing between A.C. Clark "advanced technology" and "magic". But, I'll put my money on never getting the evidence in the first place.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 01:50:55 UTC | #486124

Mbee's Avatar Comment 8 by Mbee

"A perfect, necessary being that simply has to exist? "

This is the main problem as I see it. Theists first assume that god exists, then bestow him with whatever powers they wish him to have and then 'know' what he wants and then write it all down so they can preach it to their flock!

Nothing is known about any god as it is all made up by the human mind.
It is far better to follow scientific investigation and try and find out what makes up the universe than to simply guess.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 02:05:12 UTC | #486125

glenister_m's Avatar Comment 9 by glenister_m

I fully accept that if we could go back in time a few hundred/thousand years with some advanced technology (or just weaponry) that we would be worshiped as gods. However I can't help but wonder if the same is true for our modern techno-savvy generation.

If aliens did visit us and their advanced technology was indistinguishable from magic, would we really consider them gods, or, as I would assume, just consider them an advanced alien race with technologies we don't understand?

I thought the movie 'The Forgotten' captured this idea nicely. The weird things the aliens (?) did were certainly way beyond us, but at no point were they considered gods.

Enjoyed the essay as well. Some very good points.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 06:02:27 UTC | #486146

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 10 by rjohn19

We must first decide to whom we are speaking.

Let me divide all the people on the planet into four groups: theists, deists, agnostics and atheists.

Most of the world is theistic. They buy the whole enchilada. For the sake of time and space, I'll just consider the Judeo-Christian-Islamic variety of rolled-up, heart-clogging Hispanic treat because that is the one that really catches in our cognizant craws.

The only things they know of their god and his abilities are found in the Old Testament. There is more pure bilge water in this document than in the present day Titanic. Some very bright people defend this work by feverishly choking the very marrow out of logic in efforts to convince the already convinced that they are not crazy. They do this because these crazies pay exponentially better than the other side.

Deists should be left out of this discussion because they believe in a god of their very own with no dogmatic bullshit to defend and there is simply not time to dissect each one for a challenge.

Agnostics, Richard's scale notwithstanding, should also be left out. Take a stand, you whimps! Still waiting for proof? There never has been any and the likelyhood of a booming voice coming down from on high in the next few eons is pretty weak. In or out guys; just stop the damn indecisive whining.

Atheists. Nuff said. We know who we are.

So what would it take for me to jump from this last group to the first?

It would take a whole new Bible- one written thousands of years ago without all the errors and contradictions. Such a Bible would also have to contain knowledge so arcane to people of the time, not even the scribes who wrote it all down would grasp the meaning of their own words.

Give me an ancient text that would, though perhaps being a little subtle about it all, impress an Einstein and I'd be close to jumping on board.

I say only close because to get me "all in", he'd have had to have intervened when belief in him was at its peak and his own church was abusing power in his name. Had he allowed the Dark Ages to be no more than a shady few days, I'd be in.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 06:41:08 UTC | #486154

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 11 by Steve Zara

I should add that I am not militant about what people believe. I have no intention to stop people believing in theism using anything other than education and argument. The only point I am attempting to make is that the statement

"Atheists aren't dogmatic. We would believe in God if there was evidence"

is not, in my view, a reasonable statement. And, that it isn't dogmatic to insist that supernatural deities are beyond evidence.

Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 08:08:43 UTC | #486166

spherical's Avatar Comment 12 by spherical

So, what's the point of atheism then? I guess it's time for us not to be attached to labels.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 09:50:04 UTC | #486178

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 13 by Jos Gibbons

I half-sympathise with some of these ideas. Insofar as I disagree, it has nothing to do with any stridency, not that I think there is any herein. I will offer a few thoughts, though I don't claim they'll help much (but maybe they will). Also, I have made an extremely unsuccessful attempt to keep my post brief.

Suppose we had evidence a being created the universe, said being lacking any cause (as opposed to being a member of an evolved species from some other universe, for example). Whether this being automatically qualifies as divine is somewhat a matter of semantics. I support TGD's stance that this is all it takes to be a god. But I realise some people may try to make "God exists" more successful by including more things (the sort of dishonest trick Zara rightly refutes on the alien front, for example, though pantheists are far worse offenders than Raelians), while others like their deity to have a few properties starting with "omni". Of course, pile too many such properties together and you get a logically impossible situation, just as allowing arbitrary sets of sets leads to paradoxes (and I think for much the same reason). These more demanding definitions of a deity are then in much the same situation as a square circle; and, if asked what evidence we'd accept for the existence of one of those, our reaction might range from "None" to "You're an idiot".

"We should accept proposition p as true if there exists suitable evidence that p is true" is, roughly speaking, the usual summary of empirical methods of forming conclusions. What Zara's post claims is that this is a silly thing to say when p is the theist's stance. I think in fact what is wrong here is that the summary is a little wonky, and I think for much the same reason "All As are Bs" is taken by most people to imply As exist, whereas logicians not only think the claim compatible with the nonexistence of As, but consider it to automatically follow in that case. Herein I will try to more accurately restate the nature of empiricism.

I think it should read, "For every proposition p there exists a class of possible evidences, such that we should accept proposition p if at least some such evidence arises". Note that for p = "There is a square circle" this statement is clearly true, provided the class in question is empty. In other words, "suitable evidence" is simply a criterion on evidence which might be unsatisfiable; but this does not mean that we're not using an evidence criterion, or at least it doesn't mean that to pedantic logicians.

Victor Stenger has made efforts to outline what sort of evidence he thinks would support various formulations he gives of the god hypothesis. The individual may not accept the definition of "god" he uses, or even if s/he does may not think Stenger's examples of evidence are suitable, but I think it nonetheless plausible there may be some scope for such evidences to be identified on some definition or another. Of course, not all definitions; for starters, logically impossible entities could never be supported by evidence. There are other hypotheses too that evidence could not support, e.g. "An undetectable goblin rests on my shoulder". Stenger thinks that neither gods in particular nor the supernatural in general need suffer this predicament. But to my mind, for any evidence one might propose to be suitable for conceding the supernatural, we must first know what "supernatural" means.

There are 4 consistent attempts at a definition of it I've seen. I should stress that by "definition" I don't necessarily mean people spell it out, but rather that it seems some people use this as the basis for their dichotomy of logically possible events or entities into the natural-supernatural classes.

  • One is that which we do not understand. (Technically I've not seen people specify this as a definition of the supernatural, but it is de facto what they do in the God of the Gaps argument.) This, of course, is dishonestly inclusive.

  • Another is that which defies a law of nature. The only trouble is, since by definition if you an violate a generalisation it's not a true law (natural laws are not true a priori, but they are as exceptionlessly true as those generalisations which are), what must have happened in any apparent violation is you just don't know the correct laws. If you don't understand special relativity, you may think thee negative result of the Michelson-Morley experiment is a miracle; a similar reaction might have happened when penicillin was first observed to have antibiotic effects, though fortunately the scientifically minded instead showed it to be a reproducible phenomenon.

  • A third is that which has not, or even cannot, be supported by evidence. Well then, drop the proposal!

  • The fourth is implicit in the arguments Stenger uses in God: the Failed Hypothesis. He essentially argues that the most fundamental natural laws are not so much limits on how nature can behave as limits on how we can describe it or on how our descriptions may differ, thus giving symmetries which, from Noether's theorem, give rise to conservation laws and as a result more or less all of physics. He suggests in particular that the gauge symmetries of nothingness are the basis of much of this. I've probably done a worse job of describing the idea than a professional physicist like Zara an, but the point I want to get across is this: Stenger sees certain quantities as not only necessarily conserved, but also of necessarily zero overall value. In a certain sense, the total mass-energy of the universe is zero to within experimental error, and similar findings apply to other conservation laws. If we define the "supernatural" as any other state of affairs, we at least know what it means. (Well, physicists do anyway.) That's not to say it's a decent definition; I'm unsure. At any rate, it's yet again something we can safely say is nonexistent.

  • Sun, 04 Jul 2010 10:33:42 UTC | #486183

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 14 by Steve Zara

    Whether this being automatically qualifies as divine is somewhat a matter of semantics

    No, I think not. I think this point of view is profoundly mistaken. The Abrahamic God (the one I am mainly dealing with) is anything but a mere universe creator. This being is the foundation of reality. It is supernatural (not simply a being in a laboratory pressing a "create universe" button, or running a simulation). It is the source of morality (somehow). It is the origin of all existence.

    There is something very important about the Abrahamic God - he is supposed to be immune to nature. He is eternal, infinite, indestructible. He is the ultimate shelter from the troubles of the mundane natural world.

    I think we need to be very careful not to confuse "god-like" with "god". This is the point Arthur C Clarke was making, and it is one of the reasons why proof of the existence of a true deity is impossible.

    Sun, 04 Jul 2010 10:47:30 UTC | #486185

    Long Johns Silver's Avatar Comment 15 by Long Johns Silver

    I think it's just a silly post.

    What's so vague or self-contradictory about the notion of a creator of the universe? The concept of a creator of a computer-rendered world makes sense, so why is it necessarily meaningless to talk about a creator of the universe? Whether such a creator exists is a perfectly meaningful question.

    What Clarke said has great power, as it implies that we are almost certainly unable to recognise magic, as we have no understanding of the limits of technology. And now we start to see the problem: with such ignorance, what evidence could there be that we are seeing the supernatural and not the unknown natural?

    Seems that you're letting semantics lead you to confusion. Whether ghosts exist is an entirely coherent question. There is either evidence that ghosts exist or there isn't. You cannot bypass the necessity to look at the evidence by merely defining ghosts as "supernatural".

    In the 18th century, most scientists (including Newton) subscribed to a view of science in which the laws of mechanics were supplemented with divine intervention. I'm not sure any strict distinction between mechanics and divine intervention (or natural and supernatural) was fleshed out. The rule of thumb was merely that mechanics were the "normal" laws in certain parts of the universe. From the stability of the Solar System to the burning of the stars, Newton was very liberal in allowing violations to mechanics.

    To claim that such evidence could exist is to deny Clarke, to deny Hume, to deny the relativity of Einstein and the quantum mechanics of Heisenberg. To concede that there could be acceptable evidence for the supernatural all-powerful all-knowing, all-loving eternal deity is the opposite of reasonable.

    I don't think you've understood either Einstein or Heisenberg. Einstein defines space and time only in terms of rods and clocks. His theories don't say much or anything about the "true nature" of space and time, and you nowadays have physicists of a philosophical bent (like Julian Barbour) speculating about whether time even exists. Whether Heisenberg's uncertainty principle implies that we can't have full knowledge (I assume that's what you have in mind) is likewise a controversial question. (I'm myself inclined toward the view that measurement of a system's complete set of commuting observables does give you full knowledge of that system.)

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 11:39:09 UTC | #486190

    jcs's Avatar Comment 16 by jcs

    Even if it was proven that a god exists most atheist would still not start to worship it.

    Sun, 04 Jul 2010 13:36:36 UTC | #486198

    rui mig's Avatar Comment 17 by rui mig

    Steve Zara,

    But for now, back to God. The words used to describe the deity seem at first sight to make sense. He (for it's almost always “he”) is all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing. He is the source of morality, and will punish the wicked and reward the deserving for all eternity.

    Not all Christians agree with this. For example, some say god isn't really all Powerfull, but God has all Power (Richard Swinburn). So, God would be a mix of the Aristotle engine of creation and a really nice guy (or, not really that nice). So, the universe would be like a company, and God would be like the founder and CEO. In this notion of God, maybe a proof of God could be possible. Agnosticism would be like, bleargh. You are right, if everyone agrees with your premisses. But premisses are always changing when it comes to the notion of God. Maybe you nailed it to those who believe in the premisses above.

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 15:40:58 UTC | #486221

    rui mig's Avatar Comment 18 by rui mig

    Hey, if there really is a creator of the Universe, then that's just a brute fact. Arguing that it just begs the question isn't really a refutation. We all accept the scientific models like darwinism, relativity or the stardard model... because they agree with brute facts. However they all beg some question because we are still ignorant about the foundation for all the facts that exist. Bottom line, something like a creator either exists or not, it's a scientific hypothesis. And that's it.

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:14:10 UTC | #486222

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 19 by Steve Zara

    For example, some say god isn't really all Powerfull, but God has all Power (Richard Swinburn)

    I agree that the most common idea of the Abrahamic God is the most absurd, but I have discussed the nature of "less powerful" gods in the context of the Greek/Roman beliefs. There are still solid arguments against them, because of their supernatural nature. There was a Star Trek (original series) episode in which the crew discover an alien claiming to be the Greek God Apollo. ("Who Mourns for Adonais?"). There is, I am afraid, no getting away from the Clarke technology/magic argument.

    Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:12:07 UTC | #486223

    lol mahmood's Avatar Comment 20 by lol mahmood

    I like your reasoning, Steve, but I think that a premise like: "we atheists would change our minds about the existence of God if presented with the right kind of evidence" has to a part of the initial discussion with theists. It is one of the 'entry level' statements that facilitates an individual theist's engagement with an individual atheist. Without it, a theist can claim (and perhaps believe) that there is no point talking to any atheists because we are all too hidebound with our atheist 'dogma'.

    Once they've accepted that you might be open to persuasive evidence, and have seen all their attempts to present such evidence fail so miserably, then it becomes possible to advance the case that 'the right kind of evidence' for an entity that cannot possibly exist is an inherently pointless confection.

    That said, it is true (of me, at any rate) that while I don't accept any of the evidence for any of the gods I've read or heard about so far in my 40-odd years, I don't discount the possibility that something god like might exist. I'm an atheist about every god I've ever heard of. I can't be an atheist about gods I haven't ever heard of.

    Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:13:07 UTC | #486224

    rui mig's Avatar Comment 21 by rui mig

    Comment 19 by Steve Zara

    What about the Aristotle God?

    Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:16:07 UTC | #486226

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 22 by Steve Zara

    Hey, if there really is a creator of the Universe, then that's just a brute fact.

    Please consider what I am saying in the article. I am not arguing that there may not be some alien creator of universes. What I'm saying is that such a being is not what the overwelmning majority of believers would consider to be a God.

    Gods are there to prevent fear. They are there to provide justice, to help us survive death. Gods are supposed to answer prayers. They are (usually) supposed to be eternal, and immortal.

    Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:16:31 UTC | #486227

    rui mig's Avatar Comment 23 by rui mig

    Comment 22 by Steve Zara

    Please consider what I am saying in the article. I am not arguing that there may not be some alien creator of universes. What I'm saying is that such a being is not what the overwelmning majority of believers would consider to be a God.

    I wasn't talking about an alien God (because that would imply some Alien universe that created that Alien)... but a genuine creator... Whatever atributes it might have.

    Gods are there to prevent fear. They are there to provide justice, to help us survive death. Gods are supposed to answer prayers. They are (usually) supposed to be eternal, and immortal.

    How the bible god prevents fear beats me. Where's justice in the calvinist notion of God? What's the use of prayer in a calvinist theology? What about the immortality of those who are not chosen (and choice here has nothing to do with merit) in the calvinist world view?

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:28:58 UTC | #486228

    Long Johns Silver's Avatar Comment 24 by Long Johns Silver

    Comment 19 by Steve Zara : There is, I am afraid, no getting away from the Clarke technology/magic argument.

    Actually, I have already addressed (and refuted) this argument, which seems to be a semantic misconception more than anything else. See above. I gave an instructive analogy with ghosts, and talked about a phase in the history of science in which what you would call "natural" and "supernatural" happily coexisted side by side in the minds of most scientists.

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:36:53 UTC | #486230

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 25 by Steve Zara

    Comment 21 by rui mig

    Comment 19 by Steve Zara

    What about the Aristotle God?

    That's a very good question. The first problem is that virtually no current theist believes in such a God. The second problem is that even our current understanding of physics (which is likely to look hopelessly primitive in thousands of years), what Aristotle's God is supposed to provide: the "unmoved mover" makes little sense, especially at quantum scales. This is why I name-dropped Einstein and Heisenberg in my essay - physics does have a tendency to wreck the axioms of theology!

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:44:54 UTC | #486233

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 26 by Steve Zara

    and talked about a phase in the history of science in which what you would call "natural" and "supernatural" happily coexisted side by side in the minds of most scientists.

    That would be a situation I would approve of. The natural/supernatural distinction is meaningless to me. There are just phenomena we investigate. But what I think doesn't matter. We have to deal with what believers think today.

    As we don't have time travel (yet), we have to deal with current arguments about the nature of deities, because it is in response to those current arguments that I have seen atheists suggest that there could be evidence for a supernatural God, with the supernatural considered to be a realm of wish fulfilment, of disembodied minds, of magic. The supernatural has split from the natural.

    History is fascinating, but just because Newton was an Alchemist, does not mean we should now consider alchemy and chemistry as part of the same system.

    Sun, 04 Jul 2010 16:52:27 UTC | #486235

    Long Johns Silver's Avatar Comment 27 by Long Johns Silver

    Comment 26 by Steve Zara :

    As we don't have time travel (yet), we have to deal with current arguments about the nature of deities, because it is in response to those current arguments that I have seen atheists suggest that there could be evidence for a supernatural God, with the supernatural considered to be a realm of wish fulfilment, of disembodied minds, of magic. The supernatural has split from the natural.

    Whether ghosts exist is obviously a coherent question, whose answer is important. You cannot silence someone who claims to have seen a ghost with some mere definitional quibble. There could, conceivably, be evidence for the existence of ghosts. If I did encounter evidence of ghosts, the last thing I'd be worried about is whether to classify them as natural or supernatural.

    I don't see how "God" is any different from ghosts in this discussion. It's possible that certain properties commonly associated with God (such as omnipotence) are logically incoherent. You, however, go much further and seem to adopt the viewpoint that there can be no possible evidence in principle for any notion of God subscribed to by theists. The argument you give is flawed, as my analogy with ghosts clearly illustrates.

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 17:08:33 UTC | #486239

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 28 by Steve Zara

    Comment 27 by Long Johns Silver

    Please research Hume's arguments on the supernatural, and have a real look at what most people consider "supernatural" to mean.

    What you think of as a semantic quibble is a key part of the belief systems of billions.

    I don't see how "God" is any different from ghosts in this discussion

    Then it seems to me that you haven't read (or understood) at least 2/3 of the article. Please review the sections on infinitude, and on the inconsistency of attributes of the Abrahamic deity.

    If you can come up with some evidence for an infinite deity providing eternal life (neither of which are attributes of ghosts), I would be quite impressed.

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 17:40:04 UTC | #486242

    Long Johns Silver's Avatar Comment 29 by Long Johns Silver

    Comment 28 by Steve Zara :

    Please research Hume's arguments on the supernatural, and have a real look at what most people consider "supernatural" to mean.

    I write arguments, whereas you drop names. Whatever Hume said, the question of whether ghosts exist is a question which is perfectly meaningful. You can't avoid this unfortunate fact by telling me to research Hume.

    I think I understand what is usually meant by supernatural. It is essentially the same as the "divine intervention" model of 18th century scientific Christians (albeit somewhat cruder and more tacitly held). There's natural laws, which operate most of the time. The occasional exception is termed "supernatural".

    Then it seems to me that you haven't read (or understood) at least 2/3 of the article. Please review the sections on infinitude, and on the inconsistency of attributes of the Abrahamic deity.

    I already admitted that some of the properties commonly associated with the Abrahamic deity might be logically inconsistent. So what? You're not saying anything original here. Also I'm certain that almost any reasonable Christian would be entirely prepared to water down many of these properties.

    If you can come up with some evidence for an infinite deity providing eternal life (neither of which are attributes of ghosts), I would be quite impressed.

    Get off the damn strawman, because that, clearly, isn't the issue. I'm an atheist just like everyone here. I'm just not impressed by your idea that there could be no evidence IN PRINCIPLE for ANY interpretation of the Abrahamic deity (and therefore, no possibility even in principle that we should change our minds).

    The one argument you give which I think is interesting, and not obviously wrong, is the following:

    This mountain/bird argument also applies to the complexity of the Abrahamic god. A being that knows all of eternal time and space must have a very big store of knowledge indeed; probably infinite. If the bird pecked away at one book in God's library once every thousand years, then ….. you get the picture. This astonishing complexity of God adds yet another barrier to evidence, as literally anything else is a better, more likely explanation of phenomena in the real world. If you curse the heavens, and get struck by lightning, it's infinitely more likely to be bad luck than God. If it happens repeatedly, it's infinitely more likely to be a rogue member of the Vogon constructor fleet having fun with their weapons than God. Anything is more likely.

    But suppose the Holy Ghost came before you and allowed you to ask it questions, and suppose it had the answer to every one. Eventually you might become so impressed that you would attribute to it a very large repository of knowledge (maybe even omnipotence). Whether or not you think this is "complex" doesn't matter, because it would be the only explanation that fits the facts in question.

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 18:15:28 UTC | #486246

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 30 by Steve Zara

    Also I'm certain that almost any reasonable Christian would be entirely prepared to water down many of these properties.

    I'm equally certain you are wrong about this. I suggest you need to provide good evidence for such a willingness to compromise.

    Get off the damn strawman, because that, clearly, isn't the issue.

    It certainly is the issue. I honestly don't understand where you get your idea of what Christians believe.

    The Lord's Prayer:

    Our Father, which art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy name;
    thy kingdom come;
    thy will be done,
    in earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive them that trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation;
    but deliver us from evil.
    [For thine is the kingdom,
    the power, and the glory,
    for ever and ever.]
    Amen. 
    

    You need to stop trying to make up your own version of what you think Christians believe, and look at what they actually do believe.

    If you want to deal with the real world, and the real issues of religion, you need to deal with what people actually believe, not some bizarre re-definition of God that almost no-one accepts.

    So, yet again, I insist on evidence for an immortal, eternal, sin-forgiving miracle-working creator. And I repeat my statement that such evidence is in principle impossible.

    Updated: Sun, 04 Jul 2010 18:20:47 UTC | #486251