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What would it take? - Comments

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 1 by Richard Dawkins

Steve Zara started a similar thread about a year ago and I discussed it with AC Grayling more recently, but it is interesting to open the question again.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 14:58:51 UTC | #843853

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 2 by Schrodinger's Cat

What would it take to make you believe in a god?

Hmm. £500,000 should do me quite comfortably. Call me a pragmatist.

I wonder how many would succumb to a religious 'indecent proposal'.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:04:40 UTC | #843857

scotsman4188's Avatar Comment 3 by scotsman4188

Even the "mathematical model of intelligence behind the Big Bang" idea, though, would not inherently convey any notions of said intelligence's nature, personality or opinions

------- Not inherently perhaps, but we could perhaps make some probable inferences, such as, that said being created the universe for the purposes of giving a place for intelligent creatures such as humans who are capable of rational thought, that it cares about the creatures that it creates and wants the best for them (otherwise why make them?), that it has the power to control creation in ways that it chooses, that it might choose to communicate more directly with humans at certain times or places, etc.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:21:08 UTC | #843867

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 4 by Ignorant Amos

Nothing.....I'm a confirmed 7....a bit entrenched I know, but as RD has pointed out with links to two excellent articles.....every other conceivable explanation for what was being proposed as evidence for a deity would need to be excluded and then I would conclude that I'd lost my marbles and became one of the deluded masses....similar to a bad L.S.D. trip.

But on second thoughts....SC's proposal of £500,000...would get me considering the proposition, a sort of down payment......now £500,000,000,000 would make me a pragmatist, whatever you'd like me to, I'll believe }80)~

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:23:52 UTC | #843870

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 5 by ZenDruid

If someone discovered and excavated the garden of Eden and found the spot where Yahoohah scraped some dirt together and made a man from it, I'm sure a good chemical assay would reveal a man-shaped anomaly lacking the compounds that compose the body. Until then, no chance.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:23:57 UTC | #843871

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 6 by God fearing Atheist

Finding a message in the billionth to two billionth digit of Pi. It was discussed in another Steve Zara initiated thread.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:27:42 UTC | #843874

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 7 by Steve Zara

Comment 6 by God fearing Atheist

Finding a message in the billionth to two billionth digit of Pi. It was discussed in another Steve Zara initiated thread.

That would make me think I was insane :)

Not even gods can tweak pi, because it's an abstraction.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:30:24 UTC | #843875

DoctorChristian's Avatar Comment 8 by DoctorChristian

I don't think I would trust myself to be able to correctly decide that a god existed on the basis of some purported evidence. However, I feel I would be willing to trust consensus in the scientific community. If some type of evidence was produced for the existence of a god, and this was analysed by the scientific community in the major universities of the world and agreed by them to be irrefutable, that would be enough for me I think. This would actually be a necessary and sufficient condition for me - nothing less would convince me, and I don't think I would need much more.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:31:31 UTC | #843876

BanJoIvie's Avatar Comment 9 by BanJoIvie

This question cannot even be adressed without first having a meaningful, functional definition of the word "God". How can anyone assess evidence for or against any phenomenon without first describing the phenomenon itself?

If you define "God" as "The laws of nature and physics" very different evidence would be required to convince me than if you define god as "the character described in the book of Genesis" or "a sentient, omnipresent, all-powerful being with absolute authority over absolutely everything, who is somehow part of every single particle of the entire universe, yet also separate from it at the same time". For that matter you could define god as "love" or "concience" or "serenity" or "this statue of Baal" or any of literally millions of differing (often mutualy contradicting) definitions that have been put forward, and each would require a diferent sort of evidence to overcome rational scepticism.

Many, many believers somehow find a way to square the circle in their minds between the idea that "God is beyond all definition" and "I believe in Him." It is simply not possible to claim belief in something you can't even define and simultaneously claim that said belief is rational or evidence based.

Also, believers often seem to be strangely willing to make the leap from evidence for one weak definition of "God" to acceptance of much more robust (and unlikely - or even logically impossible) defintions. One often hears so-called "rational" theists puting forward evidence for the existence of "inner peace" or of order in the structure of the universe as sufficinet to establish the existence of "God" - without really admitting the vast gulf between "I feel really good when I think about Jesus" and "there was a global flood several thousand years ago" or "homosexuality is inherently immoral and contrary to the will of God."

There is all manner of "evidence" I have heard proffered for "God". Some of it even has weight, provided one has a very narrow definition of the term. I could just see a truly rational mind accepting "God" on the available evidence, provided one defines the concept as Spinoza might have, or Einstein. But given that most theistic definitions of God I have so far heard contain inherent impossiblilities, I cannot really imagine evidence which would serve to support them.

Now whenever anyone asks me "what evidence would you accept to for the existence of God" I always counter with, "you tell me what God is, and I'll tell you what kind of evidence would count." I'm usually accused of dodging the question, or of being "narrow-minded" at that point. So much for any pretense of an evidence-based approach to the question.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:42:47 UTC | #843881

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 10 by Sean_W

I want to know why I should care.

What would it take to make me care whether it existed or not?

For some people the discovery of even a scintilla of evidence that it might be there would be earth shattering.

-meh

What could you possibly do differently just because you discovered the mere chance that god existed?

It wouldn't even change how you put on your underwear, much less how we do science.

This does not have to be the case, and that dear believer is a bigger problem for you than you realize.

edit: Sorry about the underwear bit, perhaps I haven't had enough coffee -who knows. But I'm leaving it, cause it's fun sorta.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:46:13 UTC | #843884

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 11 by Schrodinger's Cat

Finding a message in the billionth to two billionth digit of Pi

'Universe 1.0. Your FREE 30 day trial period. For the fully functional version contact God Corporation. Experts in creating universes since 4004 BC'

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:48:22 UTC | #843886

Drizzt Do'Urden's Avatar Comment 12 by Drizzt Do'Urden

If the universe had been a different kind of universe. One where the idea of science has no clear meaning. Where if you looked into a microscope at your hand, you only saw a sea of whatever color your hand is. A universe where there is no need for dna because we are conceived by the power of God. If the laws of the universe were indeed of a supernatural sort and people were raised from the dead, walked on water because they had the power of the holy spirit. If a God actually interacted with us in a real substantial way that was obvious to everyone, although I'm not sure exactly what that way would be. That would be evidence that would have made me less likely to question the existence of God.

Our universe is more mysterious and amazing than the type of universe that would make me believe in God.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 15:53:58 UTC | #843888

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 13 by Bobwundaye

For me, belief in a personal God would follow from an immediate response to several prayers in a row that are met on my terms and in my time - none of that, sometimes God says "yes", sometimes he says "no", sometimes he says "not now". E.g. if I pray for a yellow Ferrari tomorrow morning, delivered to my door (all documents in order - because I hate paperwork), that just so happens to contain the winning lottery ticket for this week's $100mil draw, I would have taken a step towards faith. This first step would have to be followed up by various other contraventions (or even seeming contraventions, that could later be proved to be entirely explained by science) of the physical laws that govern space and time at my will (prayers).

Of course, all my prayers will have to be followed to the tee at least until I believe, then God can start ignoring me like the rest of his billions of followers.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:06:44 UTC | #843894

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 14 by Peter Grant

A coherent definition to begin with.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:16:50 UTC | #843897

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 15 by MilitantNonStampCollector

That's interesting. What would evidence for God look like? I go along with Steve Zara in that I doubt there can be evidence for God because the definition is so wishy washy and contradictory, it's designed to be nonsense. I'd put myself at an 8 on Dawkin's 7 point scale.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:22:26 UTC | #843899

CaptainPlanet's Avatar Comment 16 by CaptainPlanet

No matter what way you look at it, it IS logically possible that Jesus was born of a virgin, that Jesus is the son of the being that was the architect of the Big Bang. This much is just plain common sense, and the massive burden of (analytic) proof is on anyone who denies that these things are logically possible.

I'd go even further: It is, as far as we know, logically possible for the architect of the Big Bang to have hung around forever. This is because whatever laws are ultimately responsible for the Big Bang, they are presumably eternal. They presumably hung around forever. Therefore, bewildering as it may seem, it is not logically impossible for things to hang around forever. We are forced to admit that it is logically possible (albeit almost certainly false) that God hung around forever.

Of course, if you're going to ascribe to God properties like "omnipotence", then he becomes logically self-contradictory. But that is just playing semantics. It is trivial to modify the definition of "omnipotence" slightly to recover a definition which makes logical sense.

We can only conclude that AC Grayling and Steve Zara are wrong. They made an interesting proposal, but I have just shown it to be wrong, and they should give it up like honourable gentlemen.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:23:34 UTC | #843901

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 17 by God fearing Atheist

Comment 7 by Steve Zara :

Yes. We would be living in a mad simulation. But its one place the maker of the simulation could put an unmistakable signature.

Comment 11 by Schrodinger's Cat :

'Universe 1.0. Your FREE 30 day trial period. For the fully functional version contact God Corporation. Experts in creating universes since 4004 BC'

Exactly.

I suppose the other place for a signature is the cosmic microwave radiation. If the entire sky had "Universe 1.0. God Corp." repeatedly written across it, like commercial packaging, it might be a big hint.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:36:25 UTC | #843907

CaptainPlanet's Avatar Comment 18 by CaptainPlanet

As for these comments on pi, it turns out that Carl Sagan was mathematically illiterate on that point. It's possible to express pi as an infinite series. That could not possibly be tweaked by a creative intelligence.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:37:55 UTC | #843908

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 19 by SaganTheCat

I'm lost to conversion now.

because i accept that my brain can make me believe anything, even to believe i saw god and everyone else was there agreeing, the likelyhood is still higher the whole thing was a fabrication.

the question itself though is an issue. first i need to have god defined, and that means doing away with the wibbly woo and appeals to mystery, and giving some hard facts. e.g. natrual disaster. did he cause it? if so how and more importantly why?

these are the questions you're not supposed to ask though aren't they? and it's keeping the details hidden that keeps god credible to the credulous (you know what they say; "the devil's in the detail").

the trouble i have now at this stage of my atheism, is that while i try to be logical and accept there must alwaus be room for doubt on any position, i find the concept of god/heaven/hell/self-creating-creator without doubt, the most unbelievible concept i have ever had the misfortune to have had served to me.

we joke about fairies and unicorns being just as likely but i'm afraid i can accept their possible existance, within the parameters of my scientific understanding, waaay before i can go with any of the creator gods or life after death nonesense.

Believers claim atheists are angry people, we demand we're no more angry than anyone else but I'm sorry, believers are right about my anger. when i'm confronted with this sort of question I can think nothing beyond OFFS!

Maybe I am angry about being brought up in christianity but the half baked argument of "what must it take for you to believe in something so vanishingly unlikely without me even defining it adiquately" makes me want to swear.

although the suggestion above of hard cash will do fine. i can act belief as well as any of them, just choose not to

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:38:08 UTC | #843909

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 20 by Sean_W

Comment 16 by CaptainPlanet

Laws don't exist do they? I mean, is the universe grooved?

On second thought, I don't think my simulation is sufficiently developed for that question.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:39:00 UTC | #843910

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 21 by Tyler Durden

Comment 16 by CaptainPlanet :

No matter what way you look at it, it IS logically possible that Jesus was born of a virgin, that Jesus is the son of the being that was the architect of the Big Bang. This much is just plain common sense, and the massive burden of (analytic) proof is on anyone who denies that these things are logically possible.

Can I ask for your premises, and conclusion, for this "logical" argument, thanks.

And the Burden of Proof lies with the one making the claim ("Jesus was born of a virgin"), not on the one trying to refute the claim.

"He who avers must prove."

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:39:26 UTC | #843911

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 22 by God fearing Atheist

Comment 14 by Peter Grant :

A coherent definition to begin with.

Quite. It is where every conversation with a theist should start - "Define god?".

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:39:40 UTC | #843912

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 23 by Dhamma

Peter Grant:

There's no definition of god in the bible, and as far as I know the only 'argument' for god's existence is that you're a fool if you don't believe. Faith is truly built on a sound foundation.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:40:55 UTC | #843914

CaptainPlanet's Avatar Comment 24 by CaptainPlanet

Tyler, they are physical events which don't appear to contain a logical contradiction. Therefore, they are as far as we know logically possible. Elementary, really.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:41:03 UTC | #843915

Andrew B.'s Avatar Comment 25 by Andrew B.

No matter what way you look at it, it IS logically possible that Jesus was born of a virgin, that Jesus is the son of the being that was the architect of the Big Bang. This much is just plain common sense, and the massive burden of (analytic) proof is on anyone who denies that these things are logically possible.

Oh, so you simply assert that such things are logically possible and then assert that those who claim they aren't carry the burden of proof? Are you joking?

No matter what way you look at it, it is logically possible that CaptainPlanet is a time-traveling vampire and bounty hunter from a different universe. This much is just plain common sense, and the massive burden of (analytic) proof is on anyone who denies that these things are logically possible.

Don't bother responding to me, you'll never be able to disprove common sense (as I insist upon defining it), and I don't deal with vampires OR bounty hunters anymore.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:41:55 UTC | #843916

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 26 by God fearing Atheist

Comment 18 by CaptainPlanet :

As for these comments on pi, it turns out that Carl Sagan was mathematically illiterate on that point. It's possible to express pi as an infinite series. That could not possibly be tweaked by a creative intelligence.

That's the point.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:42:42 UTC | #843917

soggymoggy's Avatar Comment 27 by soggymoggy

Sorry for posting something that's been said before, I did scan down the discussions briefly but didn't go back that far! One might reflect that until the believers come up with anything new to support their claims they're unlikely to generate many new points for discussion!

How can anyone assess evidence for or against any phenomenon without first describing the phenomenon itself?

That's very true, and it's why I said that calling any kind of creative intelligence behind the universe "God" before we knew the first thing about it would be meaningless.

Scotsman, I'm not sure about your inferences that the "creative intelligence" would care about us or even have created us on purpose; we exist because the conditions of reality (is that a real term? Spot the novice!) are such that they have led to our existence - perhaps inevitably. To suggest that an intelligence behind those conditions cares about us or even knew we would happen suggests omniscience; could that be safely assumed, do you think? (If it DID turn out to be an omniscient being that knew exactly what was going to happen, I'd have to give it a gobful about creating a universe that led to me being essentially allergic to bloody sunlight. Git.)

Amos, I hadn't extrapolated the "I've lost my marbles" hypothesis that far - you may have a point. I would probably decide in a slightly solipsist sort of way that none of the "facts" I was learning were true because my reason was fractured before deciding there must be a god. If that were my only reason for saying that nothing could convince me, I might be forced to accept a certain dogmatism to my atheism (oh the irony), so it's fortunate for the sake of my vanity that no one's come up with a concrete definition or testable hypothesis yet.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:42:44 UTC | #843918

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 28 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Hi SOGGYMOGGY

What if physicists managed to get back beyond the Big Bang, and discovered that the only workable mathematical model was some sort of creative intelligence?

That is something that I would accept as a possibility, in principle.

Maybe one day humans will develop the technology to create a new universe, in which case it is perfectly possible that our universe was created by another intelligent being.

But that doesn't answer the question of what created the creator of our universe.

And it is doesn't mean that this entity deliberately created humans, or any other species. The evidence is overwhelmingly against that.

And there is no logical leap whatsoever from a potential intelligent creator of this universe to any of the commonly proposed gods. No reason at all to suppose that an entity that might have created our 100 billion galaxies 14 billion years ago should be remotely concerned about whether or not you covet your neighbour's ass, however cute it may be.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:42:57 UTC | #843920

CaptainPlanet's Avatar Comment 29 by CaptainPlanet

Wow, you people are crazy.

You think I have to "prove" that a hypothetical physical event is logically possible?

Suppose I say it's logically possible the Empire State Building could be destroyed. Or that alien tombs exist on Mars. Do I have to provide some kind of proof? A citation to a peer-reviewed study, to verify that it's logically possible?

You can't be serious.

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:43:54 UTC | #843921

Hellboy2's Avatar Comment 30 by Hellboy2

What would it take?......A double lobotomy:)

Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:44:36 UTC | #843923