Obey No1kinobe


This conversation is closed.

Does the god hypothesis have any explanatory value?

I don't know how this universe got started, what was before, or why it has the properties it does.

But is supposing some inexplicable supernatural beings as responsible a reasonable explanation.

I suggest answering a mystery with a greater mystery is no explanation at all. That asserting god created everything is logically an argument from ignorance.

Not being able to disprove an invisible, immaterial, undetectable, immeasurable, testable concept does not imply the claim is valid. This usually implies a weak argument or position.

Interested in your views and why. Would love to actually hear a reasonable compelling argument for the theist position.

Closing Statement from Obey No1kinobe

Thanks all for the comments.

To try sum up, on one side saying the gods did this or that is either unverifiable or false depending on the claim.

If you say the universe was made 6,000 years ago, or that the Earth sits of the back of giant turtle and flies through space, you are simply wrong. If you say a god made the universe to look exactly as we know it to be, there is no evidence of this god or how it did it. The statement can not be tested or verifed. Science has nothing to say on the matter.

Basically, if aspects of religious belief conflicts with the facts and evidence and well established theories that explain these, then the the religious belief is wrong.

But there are areas where we don't have most the answers in science. You can propose supernatural agency, a spiritual realm, immortal souls, but can not prove this either way. These are not scientific claims. They are not scientific explanations. I hope most agree on that.

To say your idea of a god or goddess created the universe is a theological assertion. Depending of the details, if they are vague enough not to conflict with the known scientific facts, then there are near infinite variations of supernatural assertions that have no evidence for what or how. These beliefs may satisfy the believers but they don't actually help us understand what really happened.

You can define something as an eternal, immaterial, powerful intelligence as a solution. You can even say it didn't need a cause or to be created. You could say it has the spiritual form of a squid. But a definition without any proof is not an explanation. You can call it Allah, Yahweh or George and believe it revealed itself to this or that prophet. Not all of these beliefs can be correct. We can not tell which is right because it is all speculative subjective waffle. But they could all be wrong.

A god could have created the universe. But for now we don't know and have no way of knowing. Its an untestable idea that explains nothing really.

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    Aug 12 2012: Nothing has "value" until someone has a need for it and that determines the "value". Ergo the need for religion. Religion provides hope. That give each of us a reason to go on faith that things will improve ... i.e. hope for tomarrow.

    Your are implying that there needs to be proof or some means to validate this 'God Hypothesis" in order for it to be valid. Not so. Science is based on what I can propose and then prove. Religion on the other hand asks not for proof or validation that is required in science .... it simply asks for faith in God and his word.

    Faith asks that you put your trust in God ..... Science says trust nothing until you can prove it.

    In summary: I think you are posing a argument that is apples and oranges. One says remove all doubt and the other doubts everything.

    I may not get this exactly right ... Give unto Ceasar what is Ceasars and unto God that which is of God.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Aug 12 2012: I like your answer Robert,
      But surely, as I read it, Obey does not ask about religion, he asks about G-d. Religions define gods in different ways, so I defined (below) a god and then hopefully showed how one day He will appear in physics and be 'proved'. If that happens, where does that put 'faith' I wonder?
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        Aug 13 2012: If as Victor Stenger argues in his books God: The failed Hypothesis and The God Delusion that God could not exist, then there would be no foundation for religion. I cannot seperate the two in this argument.

        Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each have "a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority," and these two domains do not overlap. He suggests, with examples, that "NOMA enjoys strong and fully explicit support, even from the primary cultural stereotypes of hard-line traditionalism" and that it is "a sound position of general consensus, established by long struggle among people of goodwill in both magisteria." Despite this there continues to be disagreement over where the boundaries between the two magisteria should be.

        This supports my argument of apples and oranges. Or if you perfer Philosophy vs science. More commonly addressed as Theology. A rose is a rose by any other name.

        Obey, in my opinion, attacks the very foundation of religion ... God. Thus addressed in my answer.

        However, I do not disregard your approach and respect your input. Thanks for the reply.

        All the best. Bob.
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          Aug 14 2012: Hi Robert, I guess there could be a scenario whereby there is no godlike entities and yet there are social, psychological, evolutionary etc foundations for religion. Agree?

          I find NOMA to be a bit of a cop out if taken to the extreme. Science has worked best by looking for natural explanations and no issues with people having their own supernatural beliefs. But at some point science and reason conflicts with most religious claims or at least indicates the claims are faith based and speculative or unverifiable.

          While I think they are most likely wrong, and believe that there may be more negatives to religion than positives overall, I'm okay if people want to believe supernatural unsupported stuff. I appreciate there are social, pschological and emotional consolations in religion.

          I just think it would be good overall if people of faith realise that their speculative unverifiable beliefs are no better than anybody elses, and actually don't help explain reality, they actually put a plug on continuing to better understand the hard stuff.

          I take your point about the tensions addressing or mixing science and religion. Which in a way in kind of my point. If you want to understand the origin of the universe or life etc, a faith based belief might provide some emotional or pschological value, meaning etc, or help you be part of some in group and the benefits that brings, but it actually doesn't explain anything any better than saying I don't know, god must have done it.
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    Aug 12 2012: Hi Obey.

    ""Not being able to disprove an invisible, immaterial, undetectable, immeasurable, testable concept does not imply the claim is valid. This usually implies a weak argument or position.""
    When 'abiogenesis', 'Big Bang', 'Dark Matter', etc. are postulated, then they are included under the banner of science.
    However the possible existence of a 'Spiritual Dimension' to reality is postulated it is put under the banner of ignorance.
    All these are untestable, etc, by 'normal methods', but all have some evidence, however there is a bias in the scientific mainstream.

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      Aug 12 2012: I agree Peter,
      In fact I would go further: Science/physics makes the implicit assumption that all must come from the material. It is an assumption and it is untested because it is an assumption. The day when science relieves itself from this unnecessary restriction to the discovery of truth, will be the day when we can accept its findings. Until then, we are left to work it all out for ourselves!
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        Aug 12 2012: I disagree with you here. I think science has the same problem religion does... It's the zealots that do the talking. Most scientists, still question purpose, and intent of life and consciousness, they just don't like to tell other people how to pose those questions, because they can't be proven to have answers. I still thumbs up though, because I appreciate the sentiment.
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      Aug 12 2012: Peter wise up, abiogenesis hasn't even been made a theory yet, although IT IS backed up with evidence and tests which hint that protein evolution could be possible.
      Big bang has lot's of evidence to back it's claims
      Dark matter is the only one I think anyone would be willing to give you, but it's still not even a theory, still in the hypothesis stage.
      Whereas the spiritual dimension HAS NO EVIDENCE, NO repeatable tests, NO predictability qualities
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      Aug 12 2012: I just gave you the thumbs up because Dark Matter, I think, is nonsense and we are teaching it to children.

      Scientists do not think that postulating a spiritual dimension to existence is nonsense. Scientists think that if you can't prove something, you shouldn't tell people "this is how it is"... or at least we used to. I understand your sentiment on dark matter, and a few things we teach that most of us don't really understand yet.
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi Peter,
      Suggest we need to differentiate between established theories and scientific work in the hypothesis stages.
      Also suggest schools, the media and perhaps the scientific establishment do not do a great job explaining the difference or status of various scientific concepts.

      Atomic theory is very well established. Evolution theory is very well established.

      I’m not aware of any established abiogenesis theories.

      I’m not an expert on the big bang but I understand we have evidence that universe is expanding and have detected the background radiation consistent with the initial bang. I suggest this is a lot less speculative than say dark matter and energy but I would defer to any physicists or more knowledgeable.

      Your call whether to consider spiritual claims on the same level with the more speculative scientific hypothesises. Some scientific hypothesis are superseded and thrown out when better explanations are found that explain and predict data. Some questions may be around for a long time yet.

      So far natural explanations have been more effective at explaining and predicting everything reducing what is left to the supernatural speculation.
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    Aug 12 2012: It's an awful answer.
    As Neil Degrasse Tyson said, here's a list of things "god" did a few hundred years ago, volcanoes, god did it, the tides come in and out, god did it, earthquakes, god did it. But fast forward to today, and what "god" does is an ever receding list. So what is attributed to god is being picked away at slowly but surely.
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      Aug 15 2012: A still think god does HIV, weather events and earthquakes.
      NDT is pretty good usually.
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    Aug 12 2012: I think your question is flawed for one simple reason. Faith, by definition, is belief systems based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. I don't see why a theist should provide you with a reasonable compelling argument when his belief system is not based on proof but faith.

    Surely, you should be the one to provide me with a compelling argument disproving my position because your position is based on evidence – not mine.
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      Aug 12 2012: Thanks for the perspective Ehis.

      I'm fine if people admit their belief is based on faith not evidence. Especially if that helps them put into perspective how speculative their beliefs are and not locked in with absolute certainty. Especially if they realise it is not a compelling explanation to say their god or goddess made the universe. Its just lazy. A pacifier. Something that in many cultures is not supposed to be challenged.

      Is faith in something a real explanation or an intellectual crutch? I do find it a bit sad we rely on evidence for most things but it is okay to have faith for others.

      I'm pretty sure the burden of proof for this or that invisible, intangible, immaterial virtually non existent god or goddess is on the person making the claims
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    Aug 13 2012: Maybe, God is meant to simply be that representation/entity of all things unexplainable? When Isaac Newton couldn't continue anymore to his findings, he turned to God.

    I mean, before the Christian God, there were Pagan beliefs or old mythological Gods. What's incredibly interesting that's common among the history of all cultures, is that they all have supernatural beings to explain supernatural phenomena like weather.
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi James, the word god or gods and goddess means so many different things that the first thing I do discussing this with a theist is ask ask them to explain what they mean.

      I have heard so many different beliefs. From Deist unknowable non interventionist creators to human god kings.
      From interventionist gods you can have a personal relationship with to even defining the unknowing or everything as god.

      There are thousands of gods and goddesses recorded in history. Even under say the label of Christianity the beliefs are wide and varied - Jesus is god, Jesus was a man, the bible is literally true, the bible is not to be taken literally etc.

      I suggest calling the unknown, unknown, and turning to a god as the answer does not bring us closer to a better understanding.
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        Aug 13 2012: There's an analogy that we are like ants and God is like that human looking above and messing with ants. There was another strange theory that said that we could all just be beings in a virtual world (the Matrix, or some superpowerful computer), and that there's a possibility that we can stop existing in the next instant, like the kid pulling the cord on the arcade machine.

        The other thing is the Bible is only true, only if we believe it to be true just like all religions imo. In the end, everything that we believe in, even logic itself, is subjective.
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          Aug 14 2012: Hi James,

          I guess we are capable of having a better perspective of the universe than ants, so I’m not sure the analogy is that useful. But yes some other beings may have senses and minds that can more easily understand the universe than our super primate brains.

          Or we could be an unconscious imagining of a very powerful entity become material rather than a conscious act by a deity. There is nothing I know that makes this less reasonable than the gods of bongo bongo creating the universe in a giant spiritual cauldron or Yahweh speaking it into existence.

          We could be in the matrix.

          There may be infinite variations of supernatural creators or unverifiable creation scenarios potentially imagined by humans.

          However, my proposal in this conversation is none of these helps accurately explain the nature of reality in regards to the origin of the universe if there is no evidence to support it.

          And you are left with an explanation requiring an explanation and proof.

          How do you prove we are in the matrix or that the universe is created by some godlike beings. How do we differentiate between competing and conflicting claims of supernatural creation? Where did the matrix and its creators come from. Do you revert to special pleading that the matrix creators always existed which is the same fallacious argument theists use.

          You seem to be suggest that truth simply depends on whether someone believes it is true. It may be semantics but I can agree different people hold conflicting beliefs to be the truth. But all these beliefs are not necessarily correct.

          To say all conflicting beliefs held to be truth are equal when it comes to accurately explaining life, the universe and everything is a cop out in my view.

          If people believe the sun goes around the earth, they believe it is true, they are wrong based on the best evidence we have.

          Or if they make a claim that is unverifiable either way it is not much good for confirming reality and equally useless as any other.
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      Aug 17 2012: I agree James, that "Maybe, God is meant to simply be that representation/entity of all things unexplainable".
      I believe that the terms god, spirit, soul, etc., refer to the life force energy moving through all of us.

      I also know that throughout the history of humankind, there have been the concepts of supernatural beings to try to explain as you say..."supernatural phenomena like weather". LOL:>) But it's true!

      We have different ways of explaining things until we have new information. Once we have the information...OH....we now know, to a certain degree (pun intended), what causes weather patterns, and it is no longer a "supernatural phenomena". It is now considered "natural" and understandable, so it doesn't need a "supernatural" label:>)

      As we evolve, we have the opportunity to take in, and evaluate new information, or stick with the old information. Obviously, people make different choices!
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    Aug 12 2012: GOD concept is not a hypothesis....it's a Belief / Faith which doesn't need any proof or evidence or logic. Just blind belief is enough.
    Though many GOD believers try to prove it , why they do it I don't understand..........!!!
    In doing so , use of circular logic is epidemic and at times annoying...........
    Unless they are harmful to others they can believe whatever they want to......
  • Aug 12 2012: Well do the fish in an aquarium know that someone created their world? If they really cared to know, how long would it take them to figure it out? And what would their reaction to the truth be?

    We don't consider ourselves to be supernatural beings, I wonder if god would be similar and say "I just created this universe to help me relax and contemplate, like you did with that aquarium." Perhaps god is this universe and we are a small part of the emergent manifestation of it's intelligence.

    To add, yes god has value since people inherently fear that which we do not understand. To be able to put a name to all of the unexplainable phenomena we experience in life has immense value. So much value that people are willing to go to war with each over small details that conflict with various religious interpretations.
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      Aug 12 2012: Adrinn I think I get some of your points. However there is evidence of aquarium and the humans who set it up.

      To compare our ability to comprehend our universe to a goldfish is not a reasonable parallel.

      Yes you can speculate anything you want. There could be billions of gods making billions of different universes. We could be in the matrix. But these are not particularly useful for explaining how this came to be. You just have more to explain.

      The value you refer to is not so much about understanding reality, but in that religion or theist beliefs might make people feel better. Believing in life after death must be nice if you can belief something like that. I agree it is human to assign agency and create explanations even if they are speculative.

      As a young engineer I had some plant operators explain to me how they thought a particular process worked to change a products properties. It was completely wrong, but filled a need for them. It didn't actually explain anything accurately, and could have been dangerous if their explanation from ignorance had led them to make certain conclusions in regards to changing plant settings.

      The value you ascribe is about meaning and human feelings not value in actually explaining reality better.

      Some believed god or the devil sent plagues, but luckily some people actually worked out viruses and bacteria.
      • Aug 12 2012: Good argument Obey, I am not saying god exists physically, only that the concept exists and that in itself makes it valuable/tangible. Our universe is made up of physical information, bits of matter which all fit into certain patterns to create forms. Concepts are made of electrical and chemical information which do the same. Is one of these forms real and the other one not?

        The concept of multiple gods controlling every aspect of human life was very valuable in explaining how the universe worked for thousands of years. As time goes on we find we can do better. However, better is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to describing reality. Some people don't do well when their realities are turned upside down, while others love the experience.

        As far as the aquarium analogy goes, I was using it somewhat loosely. Yes there is evidence, but none the fish will perceive. It might be a perfectly reasonable parallel if you take into consideration the extra dimensions predicted by string theory(if that pans out). In this case we are as fish trying to think outside the box. The only difference is we seek to know, while fish are just fish, for right now.

        Is it an elaborate aquarium we live in, or a beautiful natural lake that we are just beginning to understand the origins of? And is there really a difference between the two? Statistical probability says, if you have the ingredients for a cake then it's impossible for the cake not to exist somewhere in time, people seem to really enjoy proving this one. I think I'll go eat a piece of cake, yum.
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          Aug 14 2012: Hi Adrinn,

          Interesting points.

          Yes there is tangible evidence of religious beliefs. Plenty of churches and TV shows and bibles.

          I guess we agree that doesn't mean the religious beliefs and assertions are correct.

          I see parallels between the evolution of religious memes with the evolution of political systems. Absolute monarchy had a place, but we moved on and improved. One party state provided some stability to China, but at some stage this may evolve to something else.

          Religious belief and systems have and do play a significant part in lives. They have evolved and in some cases moderated in other hardened and diverged into the amazing array of belief we have today infused with our modern understanding of life the universe and everything - more or less depending on the person/dogma.

          I see now your aquarium point that our limited senses and technology limit our perception and understanding of reality. Yes there could be something more. I agree. Mostly my view is what we know is pointing to belief in gods and spirits, personal religious experience and vision and prophetic dreams to be products of our monkey brains and not insights into the nature of reality.

          There are infinite supernatural type possibilities. Some are popular. If there is a god of any type there is no compelling evidence it exists, or what it's nature is, or that it impacts my life. While there is a possibility it exists, it might as well not exist for all we know, if we are interested in truth.

          I don't know how all the dogmatic believers rationalise their believe versus the millions of others equally speculative, that their belief probably has more to do with when and where they were born than truth.

          The good thing is we live in countries where we are free to indulge in intuitive imaginings and possibilities and immerse ourselves in old and new spiritual teachings and religious communities or not.

          Thanks for the discussion Adrinn.
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      Aug 16 2012: Seems to be one video.
      Interesting stuff.
      Relies on the premise that there is some god consciousness or something without explaining why this is true.
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    Aug 15 2012: (Reply to Obey and Stewart, thread below)

    Then here I think may be the rub:

    There is evidence obtained scientifically, objectively and repeatably by scientists with reputations to uphold, and I accept their integrity and the validity of what they've found when they state that they can find no evidence of fraud. I then start to look for explanation. You, on the other hand, cannot, perhaps for philosophical reasons, accept this evidence. If you honestly feel that the evidence must be invalid, then the world awaits your rebuttal of it, but until you or anyone else is able to, it remains there for everyone to acknowledge. (I do agree that there is, in many many cases, fraud involved, but not in all. And this makes sorting out the chaff from the wheat more difficult for the average person)

    Here is a list of just a few scientists and lawyers who have investigated the validity or otherwise of mediumship and survival after death, and have put their reputations on the line in support of it. I am informed by a lawyer that the standard of evidence they present is far higher than that required in a court of law to set the case proven:

    Sir William Barrett,
    Dr Peter Bender, Dr Robert Crookal,
    Professor John Bockris,
    John Logie Baird,
    Dr. Hereward Carrington,
    Dr. Robert Crookall,
    Sir William Crookes,
    Professor Augustus De Morgan,
    Lord Dowding,
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
    Judge John W. Edmonds,
    Professor Arthur Ellison,
    Professor Camille Flammarion,
    Professor David Fontana,
    Sir Oliver Lodge...

    If you think the evidence is fraudulent and you can see the flaw, then it looks like you're on the way to a $1m! If I tell you where you can claim it, can I possibly ask you for say 10% !?

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      Aug 15 2012: Carl, Maybe there is something in it. Like I say, I'm open but would have to look into it deeply to overcome my skepticism. I guess it is not helped by all the shonks.

      Also, I'd expect there to be more significant support for it if good testing done.

      There is also some guy offering USD1M to anyone who can demonstrate physic or supernatural abilities under laboratory conditions. Maybe they could make some money too.

      Thanks Carl.
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        Aug 16 2012: Thanks for the acknowledgement Obey,
        If I can say one thing it is this:

        There is a fine line between religion and science. Preferring dogma invented 1800 years ago, religion doesn't want to know science and the scientific method. On the other hand physics wants to prove how everything came from the material and random chance. Therefore, using scientific method to draw that line is necessarily a lonely business. You won't get the answer in conventional physics, neither will you get the answer you need from religion. It is a very fine, very lonely line. (sorry)
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    Aug 13 2012: Reply to Stewart Gault:
    you said " I must say it sounds rather wishful, a wish for there to be more than matter."
    But surely so is the big bang story a wish for the answer to be provided just in terms of matter.
    We are supposed to live in a universe governed by the laws of physics, isn't one of those laws that nothing travels faster than the speed of light? So how did the inflationary period occur? And all this invisible, undetectable (by definition) Dark Matter they invented, isn't that just a 'scientific' way of legitimising fairies to support a materialist view-point as to our origins? I far preferred it when we though the universe had always existed and will always exist (steady-state theory). At least we had fewer unknowns and we admitted them as unknowns.
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      Aug 14 2012: Carl, I don't know when the laws come into play.
      If there was a singularity were the laws practically relevant in that state
      We are at the limits of our current understanding, with more and less speculative science.
      It's a pretty complex task to backward calculate the early stage of this universe based on the observations we have now.

      If you think scientific hypothesises in the early stages of assessment and development are the same as proposing faeries I suggest you are either misunderstanding the modern scientific process or seeing it as a false dichotomy.

      Hypothesises are developed to explain facts, observations. My laymans understanding is the hypothesis of dark matter and energy has been proposed to potentially explain observations related to galactic rotation and the expansion of the universe. This other stuff that we can not see may explain the observations, but we have not been able to measure it or prove it. Not like evolution which is now an established theory or much of atomic theory.

      Take the Higgs Boson. It was hypothesised to explain the facts/observations and we may now have detected it. It moves closer to being an established theory.

      Science improves and updates as better explanations, testable ones, are developed and improved. Some ideas at the speculative stage others are more established, but it will be updated if better explanations are found.

      Not sure what the test is for fairies or what facts or observations Faeries might reasonably explain.

      If our improved understanding leads to more questions, so be it.

      No issue if you have scientific reasons for thinking some theories or hypothesises are questionable.

      People might find it comforting to think the earth is flat, stationary, eternal and the centre universe rather than being toasted to a cinder in the latter stages of the Suns "life" cycle.
      But what is comforting is not a criteria for truth.
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        Aug 14 2012: No, what I am saying is that you have to make certain starting assumptions, else you have no common ground to build upon and ANYTHING goes. If physics is to have ANY meaning then it must rigidly stick to those assumptions, namely that the laws of physics (say F=ma, say the principle of least action) are the same in any reference frame. If physics is prepared to say that at any point in time the universe did not obey these rules, then that is exactly the same as bringing in fairies to do the job. Modern or not, the job of physics is to discover reality not to propose extraordinary hypotheses. You can have hypotheses all you want, but you can NEVER propose anything which breaks the laws of physics however early in development it is. The big-bang is an idea only, and if it requires that the laws of physics be broken in order to sustain that idea, then it is not a good idea.

        However, I appear to have a slight advantage which will make me seem either delusional, or aloof, or arrogant none of which I like, but it seems to be the case that I do have it: Effectively I'm cheating a bit, I know the answer before the question.

        For the last 30 years of his work, and following his 2 initial Relativity Theories Einstein was looking for a field equation which could describe how matter was somehow extended in space, thus giving rise to the shape that space forms under General Relativity in the presence of mass.

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          Aug 14 2012: I'm not sure Carl.

          No issue saying the laws apply to the universe as it is.

          Not so sure those laws were meaningful pre bigbang or even during the early stages.
          Does gravity make sense in an infinitely dense point?
          Do the electromagnetic and nuclear forces make sense before electrons and protons exist?

          If there is evidence or some reason to support the proposed physics of the big bang, then it is a bit different to supposing an invisible immaterial dragon in my garage.

          I'm open on this one. Don't know enough either way.
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        Aug 14 2012: cont'd

        I have found that field definition which means I am able to continue Einsteinian relativity from the macro world down to the quantum world of the electron. (This is where I sound arrogant or deluded): I cannot describe it in the short space I have here, the world will have to wait for the completion of the maths which will be complicated. But I can tell you some conclusions (which will sound arrogant (sorry)):

        1. It is pointless looking along the time-line expecting to find a start point.
        2. It is primitive physics to imagine that the fundamental forces are there without explanation (rather like the child at the puppet theatre who can't see the strings). There is a simple physical explanation for them and the early signs from the LHC that they are finding they may be all connected, is positive confirmation of my thoughts.
        3. It is primitive physics to accept that electromagnetic (EM) waves appear to travel WITHOUT a medium (aether) in which to travel. Yes, Einstein said there cannot be an absolute medium, but the search never went on to understand what a relativistic medium might look like. I have found it. I have the explanation for why EM waves can appear to travel in nothing.

        These conclusions, plus others, give me the strength to appear arrogant when I say that the laws of physics CANNOT be broken under any circumstances. We have to search for another answer to the problem.

        (I prefer to be deluded so let's say that's what I am rather than arrogant)
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      Aug 14 2012: It's not really wishful thinking at all for the universe to be solely made of matter. There's nothing special about matter. there's no afterlife or spiritual realm within it, it's just what it is.
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        Aug 14 2012: Yes Stewart, my wrong choice of words, I should perhaps have said “sign of desperation, to resort to non-acceptable physics”.

        To Stewart and Obey,
        The big-bang and its necessary reliance on non-acceptable physics is like using a get-out-of-jail-free card. It is too easy to say “Oh well anything can happen in a singularity”. The question moves on to why do you think there was a singularity and I guess your answer lies in the red-shift of distant stars, but even Edwin Hubble said that there may be reasons other than expansion for the phenomenon.

        I used to 'believe' in the big-bang until I saw how flimsy the evidence was and started to think that we really don't know and should admit it rather than force the tablet down our throats. Then there was the fact of the quantisation of the red-shift, why does this happen if red-shift is supposed to be evidence of a smooth continuous expansion?

        I asked myself why was it that scientists continued to promote the story and came to the conclusion that it was neat and it seemingly fitted the materialistic ASSUMPTION. But so did the steady-state universe appear a fitting answer when that was assumed before Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of red-shift.

        Surely far better to say we don't actually know with any certainty?

        I agree there is no afterlife in the material. Have you considered evidence for it outside of the material? It is my guess that you have probably rejected it as fanciful, misguided, delusional wishful thinking. I am talking about strong scientific evidence garnered by scientists with reputations they would not wish to be tarnished by association with something which might appear weird. It is very strong evidence gathered through repeated, objective, scientific means. It is evidence which is repeatedly being made available even today. There are even people who have put up $1M prize for anyone (magician, scientist or otherwise) who can refute it, but no-one has tried yet. The evidence seems pretty strong to me
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          Aug 14 2012: I've read multiple things about spirituality and normally they can be explained as mis-direction or slight of hand. I've never seen anything which has made me question this.
          As for the expansion it's accelerating, I don't know how that fits in with quantised red shift.
          And the big bang model does have a lot of holes, but unfortunately for those who argue against it, it does explain more than other models and so is accepted. I'm not saying I'm fully supporting it 100% I think dark matter and dark energy are a bit cheap on their part but the big bang does seem feasible. Also they could be entirely wrong and we could find a new theory which is totally material and explains everything, either way we just keep searching.
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          Aug 14 2012: Thanks Carl.

          There are some speculative aspects to science on the cutting edge.

          I reserve judgement until reasonably sorted out.

          Like Stewart anything spirit based or religious experience based or purely intuitively based I have found very speculative and either unknown, work in progress and most often better explained in a naturalistic way - like free will or the lack of it, like human group rules/morality etc
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    Aug 13 2012: Hi David Hamilton,
    We've run out of depth of thread, so I put my answer here.
    (why not Primordial consciousness AND Big-bang?)
    I can't think of a reason why not, other than I don't think the big-bang story is fully correct since it relies on unscientific speeds greater than the speed of light and vast quantities of made up dark matter to support the idea. In other words I think it is essentially a forced materialist solution to the problems of origins when restricted to finding a solution in the material. I would prefer that physics/cosmology actually said "we don't know" when asked the question, rather than tell a story which relies on support of the undetectable (dark matter).
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      Aug 14 2012: Hi Carl, I'm pretty much with you on the I don't know if we really don't know.

      But I'm also okay working on hypothesises to answer these questions.
  • Aug 13 2012: Hi, Obey !

    It's the way David Bohm put it : The Whole determines itself to behave like independent parts in many cases ; behaving like parts is determined by the Whole.
    ... each process each part is the Whole ...
    Can you grasp it by logic ? That's it ! It's a QM Revelation...

    Our ancestors called it God,the spirit of nature in shamanic cultures ; it was called different names in different times, but it has always been about the Whole, about the priority of the Whole over the parts.
    In viewing the message of science this way we are tapping into ' another way of knowing' , the dual logic can't explain the world that science discovered : chaos is beautifully ordered ( it's infinite complexity ), particle behaviour depends upon the context, quantum entanglement, quantum superposition ..., the list of wired things can be long. But it is not wired, it's quite accurate 'description' of what was called God, it is not a supernatural being, it is not a being, it's the Whole.
    Scriptures, Vedas, koans, sutras .... are the attempt to tell unlanguagable, that the most advanced people in the past felt intuitively or saw in the altered state of consciousness, now science has some equations to match.
    In my view, the basic flaw of almost all scientifically minded atheists is their dependence on logic.. Yet logic is not the only way we know the world and not necessarily the best.
    And one more thing, which i believe is very important : The idea of God and Religion ( any religion ) is not the same. They are not unconnected but they are not identical either. I don't practice any religion, but if i tell you that WE ARE GOD, will you understand what i am talking about ?
    If you don't , I'm afraid i can't explain, it's meant to be experienced , not understood :)
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi Natasha

      There are many concepts or definitions of god, gods and goddesses.
      From Deist creators to human god kings.
      From interventionist gods you can have a personal relationship with to even defining the unknowing or everything as god.
      Some even take aspects of science and try to make them mystical and magical.

      I find it a long bow to connect many of god, nature spirit type beliefs to theoretical physics.

      I'm sure you can invent parallels or take the words of physics and try and link this to something that borders superstition.

      I'm not sure if you are just reflecting on the amazingness of reality at a quantum or cosmic level that stretches our monkey brains that evolved to deal with medium sized stuff and comparing this to how our more ignorant ancestors invented magical explanations an meaning to the universe and our consciousness. Or are you actually trying to say that say that physics is the same sort of activity or truth as past supernatural beliefs.

      When you say we are god, it is imprecise language to me. We are made of made of amazing stuff, atoms that formed in the first generation of stars. Linking the questions and strangeness of reality to ancient magic and superstitution born of ignorance seems problematic to me.

      Its kind of a new age mysticism if I interpret your view correctly.

      Personally I find intuition important for making snap decisions, particularly in a survival situation, but pretty inaccurate for understanding reality. Relying on intuition without any reasoned evidential examination results in the mess of spiritual beliefs and superstition we have today from astrology or crystal healing to formal religions and every variant of religious belief systems that contradict each other. And some people think all these different views are equally correct. I suggest the opposite.

      Intuitively earth is still and a bright thingy goes across the sky during the day and a veil of pinhole stars floats across the sky at night. Yet the earth rotates
  • Aug 13 2012: Explanatory value? Hmmmmm. The subject just doesn't go away! Yes, I do see that to try to explain a mystery with another mystery is no explanation. But your next sentence, "That asserting god created everything is logically an argument from ignorance" is a challenge. Who can say that all revelation of the past yields only ignorance? Yes, there are major "gaps" in facts and knowledge.

    How can one ignore the record of Gabriel appearing to Mary and her cousin Elizabeth at different places. How can we ignore a record of 19 different appearances of the resurrected Jesus (in non-human form) to about 1,500 people in different places at different times? And miraculous events, raising Lazarus from death after four days and making edible food for 5,000 people in one event be ignored as strong evidence of a real God existence? You could go on with records of evidence. How can we ignore the actual experiences of people relating to God over thousands of years, although very widely varied and also with widely varied reactions?

    Yes, we have great reconciliation difficulties with science and religious record differences, but why throw out the baby with the bath water? Your next sentence about not being able to disprove is a good statement. My understanding is that only real proof of God's existence is in the experience of individuals. These vary according to willingness to accept relationship and cooperate. Real experiences, whether crude or highly significant are not a basis of ignorance although a person could be ignorant of past details.

    The only lasting theist evidence for each individual is personal experience and a strong enduring faith in the One who makes all. No scientific theory or process can prove otherwise. Why try to put a square peg in a round hole when it will never work?

    As it is today, we have only partial knowledge of the whole.

    Offered in friendship intended.
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi Mark, thank you for your balanced comment. I hope I don't offend in my rushed response.

      I would suggest equally how can one believe all the supernatural claims, visitations, visions, revelations, scriptures from all the different religious and spiritual frameworks.

      It the koran said there 1000 witnesses to some miraculous event would you believe that?

      How do you know there were witnesses as stated? How do you know what really happened.

      Apparently the Angel Gabriel gave the prophet of Islam the message in the Koran.

      Apparently Adam

      Frankly, there is nothing I know of that supports any of the miraculous claims and related assertions in the bible. On balance I guess Jesus actually was a real person. Born of a virgin. Doubt it. Ressurected, doubt it. Body disappearing from the tomb, sounds plausible through mortal means. Burning bushes, great flood, parting seas, people living to 900 years, god sending plagues and angels helping knock down enemy walls, talking donkey's and serpents, I doubt it.

      I recall one bible verse where god was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." —Judges 1:19. Doubt it. And not exactly omnipotent if god couldn't deal with a few iron chariots.

      If you looked at the bible the same way as you look at the Koran or book of Mormon you might be in a similar space to me.

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. the claim of the resurection is extraordinary. I'm rusty on the bible these days but recall all the graves in Jerusalem opened up. Sounds like a Zombie invasion. And yet nothing was written down by Jesus followers or recorded in other sources at the time.

      If the amazing things that happened in the bible, or any other religious tradition actually occurred we have some serious reflection to do. However, I suggest it doesn't take much scepticism to question the claims in the bible or any holy book.
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi Mark, given your thoughtful comment, I'll give it the respect of a thorough response.

      On personal experience I suggest:
      1) People are actually experiencing a supernatural divine experience and literally interpreting it correctly. E.g. an Angel of the Jewish tradition spoke to me and said X
      2) People are actually experiencing a supernatural divine experience and incorrectly interpreting it through their cultural paradigms or at least not being accurate in the their interpetation of something beyond full human comprehension
      3) People dream and hallucinate, have different states of consciousness and exhibit cognitive bias and have evolved to see agency in everything.

      Prayer for example. Nothing fails like prayer. If you pray for something and it happens it is gods work. If it doesn't then it is gods will.

      I have a similar experience meditating to that I had speaking in tongues and singing in church etc.

      Trance is a normal part of human psychology. Heightened emotional experiences are natural experiences.

      I note the experience is universal and does not depend on the religion or dogma.

      I suggest the that religious experience is most likely a natural human experience.

      In regards to being the truth or explaining reality, a waking revelation or vision is about as useful as a sleeping dream vision. Always subjective and through cultural and individual filters. Not much use.

      At some point people who are subject to visions and voices too often are actually assessed as mentally ill, but all of us have imperfect perception and are subject to delusions etc.

      I could be wrong and you could be right that only the Christian visions and revelations and sensing the presence of god is real and all the other belief frameworks are delusions, misfirings, or the work of the devil.

      I suggest peoples conflicting subjective intuitive beliefs are not great for understanding the universe, but are part of the natural human condition.
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    Aug 12 2012: Hey Obey what do you know about Aboriginal belief structures. Has anyone managed to interpret the dot drawings yet? Was explainintg to James Zhang earlier about harmonics and vocal power. Ken Brown from N.Z. has a thread going about strong voices. Do you know about the Maori legends about creation and about the discovery of fire. Anything like that in the Aborigine stories. They call the universal unconscious Carl Jung was talking about the dream time for example. On the TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert she suggests the Enlightenment of about 500 years ago is to blame for a lot of social problems now. I understand her to be saying in focusing on the individual and their role in society, the individual has also been made perhaps responsible for the ills of society. My interpretation is that the ills of society need to be sorted by a team of people. Just a few ideas to add to your conversation.
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi Elizabeth, sadly I know little about the Aborigine dreamtime stories or Maori mythology. What I have heard is quite poetic. I guess they were oral traditions.

      I find the ancient aboriginal and European cave drawings breathtaking and inspiring, imagine being in a time before the scientific understanding we now have. To see agency and magic everywhere.

      I recall a couple of Maori stories - Rangi and his brother in a canoe (South Island) caught a big fish (North Island). The islands are kind of canoe and fish shaped.

      I'll have to check EG's talk. Just like welfare can be a safety net or lock people into poverty many social technologies can cut both ways and life is complex. Still I think ideas of equality under the law, sex equality, race equality, moving away from theocracies and monarchy, focusing science on natural explanations etc have been overwhelming positive for the human condition.
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    Aug 12 2012: I have read a lot of spirital texts. I want tor refer you to a talk on TED by Elizabeth Gilbert. Words are social constructions that require a shared history to give them meaning. Most of the spiritual texts are about what Carl Jung called the universal unconscious, which is that which is programmed into all of us through our genes and our neurons. Every religion looks for the humble person who glows with inner light. That is a godly person. Having faith and hope and being charitable keep a psyche sane expecially in an insane social structure. In a society where there is a huge divide between the haves and have nots very bad things happen and people get hurt. Good ideas resonate in a society in it's culture and the behaviours of the people long after the origns of it have been 'lost' to common conscious knowledge. The graven images of the gods are metaphors. For my example I chose the Indian God Shiva who embodies the eternal cycle of creation and destruction. The image of the eye in a pyramid is just a metaphor for the functioning of the pituitary gland and the production of oxytocin whiich is the ultimate bonding hormone in the activities of humankind. I think the pyramid structure is an allegory, you need a deep firm base to make a pyramid. A weakened base is a weakened society. All the layers of the society need to feel wanted and need to be adequately resourced. Hoarding of resources just leads to disaster ultimately. A healthy society is small hills not towering mountains and toxic canyons. A multi-faith nation is potentially so rich, it is not all about the technology.
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      Aug 14 2012: Hi Elizabeth. I agree hope is important. I don't think you necessarily lose hope if you are sceptical of supernatural claims etc. If people want to have have faith in speculative supernatural beliefs, that is their choice.

      However, there are consequences from faith based beliefs and not all are positive.Worse case is where people think they have the exclusive absolute truth. If someone believes God says it is okay to have slaves or kill homosexuals, how do you argue with that?

      Perhaps those that admit their beliefs are speculative and not necessarily true and act accordiningly are less of a concern, but still issues. E.g. The pope says pray for the victims of an earthquake. What good is that for the victims. It might make Catholics think they have done something, but there is no actual aid to the victims. Why not donate to a recovery fund.

      I lived in a predominantly Buddhist country for some years. Belief in karma and reincarnation helped the poor accept their lot, but it also made them accept that the rich and powerful were entitled to their wealth and position because they must have deserved it from a previous life. It helped the rich feel entitled and superior also and all the bad that went with that.

      I don't think you need supernatural faith to be hopeful, appreciative and charitable. There are good secular reasons to be charitable and they are not tied to all the negatives that religious beliefs contain.

      Some may see god statues and forms as metaphors, or aspects of some divine whole. Others may take them more literally.

      Some might even see the divine whole as a metaphor for an amazing natural universe with no magic or spirit.

      I think we are sophisticated enough to come to conclusions about wealth, hoarding and what a good life might be without all the mystical attachments and symbolism. If others find the religious supernatural symbolism works for them fine.

      Also not having a belief in god does not stop secular appreciation of life, universe, mind
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        Aug 14 2012: Hey Obey you are so right! Kar Marx called religion the opium of the people. His ideas helped fuel the overthrow of the traditional social structure of monarchy and rule by 'divine right'. This left a vacuum that was filled by another model called 'Communism'. It worked up to a point but was inherently flawed because no society operates in isolation. Eventually it willl find it needs resources outside of what it has physically in it's local environment or meta-physically in the health and intellect of it's people. Pyramid schemes of any kind ultimately fail. You are so right about everybody needing to feel wanted and included in a society. A society that calls difference 'evil' is in big trouble, whether that difference is ethnic or cultural or due to physical difference (and I'm talking lifestyle before we get to the serious injustices faced by disabled or other-abled people). As I was saying on another thread about the idea about forgiving and forgetting I believe the religious ideas have been misinterpreted. I think of the ancient classic i-ching and the hexagram which says balance is so important. There is a mountain and a lake involved. It also says don't respond in the heat of anger because it escalates things, respond more appropriately later. It does not say carry on taking the injustice. Have to refer to the Bible for the next bit ie the parable of the Talents or Minas. Have a quick look at Wikipedia for gist of argument. Saying this parable exists in many other spiritual texts I have read. Also see Nigerian tribal marks system. Says King Sango but it is actually pronounced Shango. No facility for accent on many English keyboards for Yoruba language written accents. You are right, people read what they want to read into spiritual texts and then hurt other people with it. It is always those who do not get taught to read and rely on their 'masters goodwill' for a truthful interpretation who get hurt.
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          Aug 14 2012: Hi Elizabeth, you raise some good points and I agree with most.
          There are many useful observations on the human condition in religious type writings.
          We are still caught between instinct and reason.

          Also reading the old stuff highlights what has changed and some insights into life at those times.

          But there is also a lot of not so useful stuff, actually harmful teachings and laws, and it is packaged as a whole with supernatural claims often of absolute truth.

          So its a mixed bag for me.

          Thanks for your contributions and thoughts
  • Aug 12 2012: Hi Obey,
    "Would love to actually hear a reasonable compelling argument for the theist position."

    Don't tell me you've had a change of heart !! I thought you had not the slightest interest, unless God would come through the wall next to you and pray to you.

    You want proof and that is totally forbidden in this spiritual world, because that would take your freedom away to (dis)believe anything you choose to. You would no longer be a human being, but an animal (which I seem to remember you think we are anyway). The choice is yours and nobody else's.

    Added for those that really would like to read about who and what God is.. please read it even if it is to find fault! I hope this link works.
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi Adriaan, I try to keep an open mind. My world view and understanding has evolved over the years.

      If there were compelling evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life or gods and goddesses I would change my position from don't know.

      I keep wondering if I am missing something while responding to the best of my understanding to highlight the issues with using god to explain the unknown. But I retain a healthy scepticism in the supernatural from Astrology to Zoroastrianism.

      Over thousands of years theists have developed apologetics to try define a god concept that is not totally at odds with our understanding of the universe. For example god is immaterial, to be consistent with the fact that there is no physical evidence for god.

      The statement that proof is forbidden seems to be just another attempt to explain reality, that there is no compelling evidence for god and this is because X,Y, Z.

      In this case it does not follow that if we were certain of gods existence we would lose freewill.

      I guess many theists past and present actually believe god with the same certainty I believe in speed cameras and police. Yet I still have the freedom to speed.

      In the past I guess the Hebrews believed in Yahweh but they also believed in other gods and sometimes strayed. Belief does not eliminate freewill.

      I also doubt we actually have a choice to believe anything. We might say something out loud, but internally you know if you believe in something or not.

      I suggest this argument does not really stack up.
      • Aug 17 2012: Sorry about the late reply. We just got internet service restored at the cottage.

        --"Yet I still have the freedom to speed"--
        You mean to say you'd still speed even if you knew there was a speed check ahead??

        --"Belief does not eliminate freewill."--
        Absolutely right, but no freewill would eliminate belief.
        I know you don't like links, but just in case.. this is an article about what would happen to us if we did NOT have freewill.

        Did I ever tell you about the new discovery of what The Tabernacle of Israel" really is? Was/is God a picky camper? :)
        Every single aspect of that tent has to do with our spiritual environment or spirit. The rooms, the materials, colors, layout. Everything has to do with our mind. I have a link if you want it.
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    Aug 12 2012: Hello Dear Obey:>)
    Apparently the god hypothesis does indeed have value to some, otherwise, it would not exist! As with any other information, it can be a valuable life guide, or a crutch, as you suggest in another comment on this thread.
    I guess I have to ask....what is the value or need in always trying to disprove the god hypothesis?

    I would say that "asserting a god created everything is logically an argument" is from need, rather than ignorance. Humans often need to explain EVERYTHING. It sometimes provides a sense of security in this earth school. The problem is, it sometimes forms a secure box around the person, and prevents any other exploration.

    We see all the time, here on TED, discussions going round and round trying to prove/disprove a god. It is obvious that some people NEED to convince everyone that there is in fact a god, and "he" is going to punish the rest of us for lack of belief. What is this behavior? It looks like an attempt to bully people into accepting THEIR belief. What does that do? Feeds someone's ego by feeling they are "right"?

    My mother believed in a god, and she was a devout christian. She used the teachings to guide her life, and NEVER seemed to have the need to convince anyone else that she was right. She lived life with integrity and did not lecture, preach or threaten.....EVER! She lived her beliefs in every moment.

    I respect people who use their religion and god as their own life guide. What I often observe, however, is that folks who need to convince others that they are "right" are not walking their talk. They are not even following the very basic teachings that they try to convince us of.

    So, it often feels to me like a crutch, or control over other people, and in that respect I do not see any value. I only perceive insecurity in those who want to control others.

    The most valuable behavior, in my perception, is to support others in his/her quest for their own truth.
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      Aug 12 2012: "Apparently the god hypothesis does indeed have value to some, otherwise, it would not exist! "

      Does HIV have value to some?
      Anti-rational memes have no value other than to cause people to spread them.
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        Aug 12 2012: Gerald,
        This seems like a rather odd, hostile comment, but I'll go with you down that path for a moment.

        I don't think the HIV virus has value to anyone, and I suspect most people who carry the virus did not contract it by conscious choice.

        The god hypothesis, however, does have value to a lot of people who have either accepted it because they were born into a family who had the belief, or they chose the belief for themselves. It is a valuable life guide for some people.

        It's not my belief, but I respect the choices people make for themselves, and if someone thinks/feels a belief is beneficial to them, I don't care if they practice it, AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT ADVERSLY IMPACT OTHERS.
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          Aug 12 2012: I think the core of the issue here is... When you teach it to a child are you adversly impacting them?

          Especially in a society that finds it self at war and conflict over issues that seem to surround spirituallity.
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          Aug 13 2012: Was it hostile? I was explaining how your argument was incorrect.
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        Aug 12 2012: I'm not a judge David, nor am I a god, who can judge others. The only thing I can do , is remedy the situation to the best of my ability IF/WHEN I see children adversly impacted. Again, I am not a judge or a god who can tell others what to do with their children, UNLESS I personally see abuse and violation of human rights.

        You say David..."issues that seem to surround spirituality". I KNOW there are many people in our world who are spiritual and/or religious and DO NOT hurt others....do NOT war against each other.

        I believe that spirituality or religion is an excuse for those who are abusive and violate the rights of others to do so under the guise of religion/spirituality. What we need to address as a global society, is abuse and violation of rights.

        The topic question is: "Does the god hypothesis have any explanatory value?"
        Yes, It apparently has value to some people and I do not have the right to deny other people THEIR rights.
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          Aug 13 2012: "Yes, It apparently has value to some people"

          This sounds better without the " otherwise it wouldn't exist '.
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        Aug 17 2012: Gerald,
        I understand that you have your own interpretations and beliefs. No one's perception of this topic is "incorrect". We all have different thoughts, feelings, ideas and perceptions about this topic, and to not recognize that fact is narrow minded. Yes, when you do not agree with someone, you sometimes tend to be hostile, and there is no need for that behavior. I try to avoid you for that reason.
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          Aug 17 2012: Understood. I'll try to be smoother.
          But just so you know I never intend to be disrespectful, though I like to challenge people into debating with me. You and your ideas are seperate things.
          And I have no moral issue with shooting ideas dead.

          I'll make an effort to put them asleep instead.
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          Aug 17 2012: " We all have different thoughts, feelings, ideas and perceptions about this topic, and to not recognize that fact is narrow minded."

          Don't you believe in the virtue of debates?
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        Aug 18 2012: Gerald O'brian,
        Of course I enjoy debates and discussions, which is why I've been participating on TED for a long time.

        You are not even involved in this debate/discussion, except to pop in simply to tell me that my perception is "incorrect", and compared it with the HIV virus, which is TOTALLY off topic.

        If you honestly think your intent is not obvious, you are only misleading yourself. You can try to "shoot ideas dead" whenever you like. It is simply a reflection on yourself.

        Regarding your statement below Gerald O'brian:
        I was totally focused on your comment, as I am focused on ALL comments I respond to.

        Again...you did not even participate in this discussion, EXCEPT, to tell me that my comment was incorrect. Your intent is very obvious. Your "contribution", as you call it, was not even on topic in any way, shape or form.
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          Aug 18 2012: " compared it with the HIV virus, which is TOTALLY off topic. "

          It's not. But you weren't focused on the content of my contribution, obviously.
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi Colleen, my wife believes in some sort of god, influenced by living in a Christian society but not dogmatic and we decline to argue the issue. I don't want to convince her faith is baseless wishful thinking, or be part of her losing her faith.

      We can get by because she doesn't take the bible or any religious dogma literally. She admits it is faith and she like to think there is something more. Our values in regards to sex, race, sexuality equality etc are very similar.

      She is a trained yoga instructor and has studied in India, which has put us in touch with that amazingly rich spiritual and religious region.

      I think you and I often have similar views about dogma or scripture being a reasonable source for laws or ethical/moral positions. I think we both support freedom of religion.

      I also understand many people get some emotional value or meaning from spiritual and religious beliefs. I would suggest that there is something illogical being certain of spiritual beliefs, but perhaps there is some benefit for people. I remember being told our cat was going to kitty heaven. It helped in the short term. Is it true? Would I have been better off being told the cats life is over as far as we know, life is precious, treasure your memories and look after and appreciate our other pets?

      To clarify, in this discussion, I'm not debating the benefits or consolations of religion, just that saying that proposing god as the answer doesn't explain anything really.

      I'm with you on supporting individuals in the quest for truth or meaning etc. But I'm okay with putting my ideas out there especially in a forum like this. My life is at least as rich now since I left the church, and I no longer have to deal with the all the stuff that didn't make sense. So I don't think atheism is automatically a nihilist experience. Likewise, I try to respect your views and anyone who has thought deeply about this stuff, even if we disagree.
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        Aug 17 2012: Hi again Obey,
        I have lots of friends and family who believe in a god, we sometimes talk about it, but mostly, we all move along with the life experience, and it really doesn't matter to us if we believe in a god or not. My friends and relatives who believe in a god do not live their life BECAUSE of a god, and the possibility of an afterlife. They are fully present in the HERE and NOW, and do not need to try to convince others that they are "right". In my life experience with the people around me, we appreciate, respect and honor the choices we all make during this life experience.

        Yes, we are often on the same page...same book....same library Obey! I LOVE connecting with people who share the belief that we are all on different life paths, and are open to possibilities:>)

        The thing is, believeing that your cat was going to kitty heaven, is a nice image, and may be a comforting, gentle little idea that does NOT impact other people. My perception of you is that you might have been just as content believing that the cat's life was over, precious, treasure memories and appreciate the life shared with the cat?

        To me, that is similar to open-mindedness regarding god/no god. If it gives people comfort, so be it....believe in it! If the idea of a god and religion gives people the go ahead to abuse, threaten, coerce, force, dominate and violate the rights of others, then in my perception, it has no useful purpose in our world.

        Your question: "Does the god hypothesis have any explanatory value?"
        My answer: It depends on who, why, how someone embraces the concept, and what his/her intent is.

        Personally, the concept of god does not explain anything to me either. Whether or not there is a god, does not change how I live my life HERE and NOW as a human being.

        I agree with you Obey.....agree to agree....or.....agree to disagree....it doesn't change the fact that we are human beings, sharing this earth school:>)
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    Aug 12 2012: Please Obey,

    Define or elaborate the God Hypothesis for me... I am convinced it is an atheist argument, no?

    God is not the same meaning to everyone who finds meaning in the word and idea... Perhaps your problem is with fundamentalist who take the idea of God and try to create objective realities - as I have gathered from your description - which is only describing how a majority of sects in the Abrahamics view God (maybe). Which obviously doesn't cover all ideas of God and/or the beliefs surrounding the idea of God.

    If a hypothesis was to be formed - it would form from a specific religious sect (major religion/minor sect) and then crafted, and not universally foundational.. Although religions like Bahai Faith try to push all three Abrahamics to one practice.. I'm certain that those practitioners will define God differently than a fundamentalist Christian.
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      Aug 13 2012: Hi Nicolous, apologies if it is not clear to others what I mean.

      By god hypothesis I mean suggesting some powerful supernatural entity is responsible for something somebody does not have a natural explanation for. In this case I’m focusing on the origin of the universe. But it could equally apply to the origin of life or other areas where we don’t have a well established natural explanation or understanding.

      I agree there are near infinite interpretations of what god is. It is one of the most abused and slippery words I know.

      Most of the people I know no longer attribute lightening, floods, epidemics to supernatural causes.
      In some cases people do not accept well established natural explanations e.g. the origin of species via evolution out of ignorance or a rejection of the science for whatever reasons.
      And there are areas where we have a partial understanding e.g. consciousness, memory and people inject supernatural beliefs.

      My proposal is suggesting that saying a god created the universe, or sent the plaque, does not actually offer any explanation because there is no explanation for god or how it did it. It’s kind of a virtual plug. It’s like saying the origin of the universe is a mystery and accepting this as an explanation. When really it means we don’t know.

      Saying god made everything but then defining god as something that does not need to be made is an apologetic cop out. You end up not knowing anything more about how it all happened and possibly creation myths that conflict with our understanding so far of the origins of the universe.

      Saying god made the universe has the same explanatory value as saying we are computer programmes, except for people are more familiar with cultural gods.

      Hope this helps to clarify.
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        Aug 13 2012: So... your problem is with fundamentalist who take the idea of God and try to create objective realities... You would have no problem with the idea God is void or God is the nature...?

        Your terms for a God hypothesis is still not well established...
        - Which God 'idea' or 'belief'? Abrahamic? Just Christian or Muslim?
        - What are the regularities required to be in practice -or- of the mind set - in this hypothesis? (Just the predisposition in belief of that certain God's power in folklore and reality?)
        - At the point of just pawning off knowledge with 'God' as the explanation - is the point where the hypothesis becomes effective?

        Isn't this whole thing just a reiteration in the attempt for new age atheist to put down theistic based faith due to the lack of foundation (evidence) in their beliefs?

        I'm interested because you are presenting it Obey, otherwise, I would write this whole conversation off as more mindless bashing of those who practice fundamentalism with the Abrahamic religions by those who practice a different form of fundamentalism...
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          Aug 14 2012: Hi Nicolas,

          My problem is with any supernatural type explanation. Not just fundamentalists of any sect.

          I'm not sure what you mean when you suggest God as void.

          I'd call nature nature not link it to the supernatural connotations with the word god.

          I hope I don't need to list every different supernatural creator entity concept imaginable. El, Madak, Azura, Mazda, the titans, Yahweh, Allah, etc.

          There are so many.

          I would include all the monotheist, polytheistic, deist, supernatural beliefs

          You mention the Abrahamic tradition. Christianity and Islam are derivative of their precursors but there are differences in the beliefs. They essentially are not the same god. Most Christians believe Jesus is an aspect of god. The other 2 don't. The Muslims belief in a god defined in the Koran, the others don't. There gods did and said different things - they are different. As are the Mormon god, the Jehovahs witness god etc, they are associated with different beliefs and revelations or imaginings. Deriviative just as Yahweh may derive from the Canaanite Parthenon mixed in with some Babylonian mythology - but different. If the Jews are right the rest are wrong. Pity if the Aztecs were right.

          Even within each religion, their are sects and denominations and individual interpretations. I don't care if it is a young earth creationist or Christian who accepts evolution and the big bang, on the point of their being a god involved in origin and nature of the universe, they are the same. Or some non specific deist belief system, or the sky father and earth mother etc.

          My proposition is they all equally do nothing to help explain the reality and details of the origin of the universe. It's simply hiding a gap with God and not filling the gap with a real understanding.

          Is challenging ideas always bashing or a put down, or does this only apply to questioning faith based beliefs?

          You might have seen all this before. It's a slightly different take for me, that I wanted to explore.
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        Aug 14 2012: Supernatural to me has proven to be just ancient misinterpretations or unexplainable phenomena of what does exist in nature. Super-natural: beyond what is known in nature. Do you really think we in modern science know everything that exist in nature or can possibly exist? No, but that's okay, we're getting there.

        Your problem is not just supernaturalist* but with those who fundamentally believe that nature works in this super-way.

        So superior omni-beings are the basis of where the hypothesis is being transparent? Deism in general, then? Belief in Gaia, who is considered as a higher power, thus working within the God hypothesis? Sounds intolerant. Different Gods teach you different things; morals, life lessons, philosophy, etc.

        You're doing all three - you made up a hypothesis to call into question how/why people think in certain ways.

        A challenge would be asking what would make them deny this faith... why is your love for God any different than my love for knowing? My God is knowledge, when I feel at one with understanding and knowing, I get a warm feeling in my chest - is that the same way you feel when you think about God?

        You anti- 'metaphysical gap filling'? Why? Live and let live - when harm is being done in the name of, that is visible, take action as humans not a diverse group. What is wrong is not people believing they are right about things they cannot know... what is wrong is that we as people can very easily do real things to do what we know is right.

        The most irrational factor that keeps the fundamental belief in God alive in any person is emotion. The feeling of security, knowledge, community, friendship, comfort, etc. all in one thought - can you relate to that feeling? Perhaps, when you absolutely know for sure there is no God of this measure in reality?

        Want to question their beliefs? Question how they feel about it... You have shared the emotions a religious person has, but for different thoughts. Fill in gaps, don;t make them.
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          Aug 14 2012: Now we are into some interesting stuff Nicholas.

          Supernatural is also a big word.

          I am open to one day some amazing stuff being reasonably supported by science. There could be magical souls, there could be something to ghosts more than hallucinations or misinterpretations of sensory data. What we know is pretty profound already. Just thinking about atoms and the cosmos leaves me in awe. How does gravity work? It's amazing, but its not likely to be anthromorhised intelligences holding us down.

          Just everything I'm aware of where this type of religious or spiritual supernaturalism lives is in the we don't know box, or most likely has a naturalistic explanation.

          You can put a mystical overlay on everything, a guiding hand etc, but it seems superfluous to me and there is nothing that indicates it exists in my view. So I'm open, but don't see all the conflicting intuitive unverifiable beliefs as particularly useful for understanding reality, even if they have human value to some.

          No issues with religious insights into the human condition, just they are often bundled with pronouncements believed to be absolute truths. And being based on authority, personal revelation etc and all the wonky bits of the human mind and experience so are problematic.

          Again, I'm actually for freedom of religion. I'm not forcing anyone to quit relgion. Just stating a position for debate in the battle of ideas.

          Funny how people take offence or are sensitive to issues touching religion and spiritual beliefs. Its a balancing act to say I respect your right to your beliefs but I disagree with them and here's why.

          There is truth about the human condition and experience but this does not make all the religious and supernatural belief's reliable guides to objective reality. I guess I care about the truth and well as enjoy testing ideas and seeing what others think.

          Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
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        Aug 15 2012: ** So I'm open, but don't see all the conflicting intuitive unverifiable beliefs as particularly useful for understanding reality, even if they have human value to some.

        Good point.

        **Its a balancing act to say I respect your right to your beliefs but I disagree with them and here's why.**

        It's not funny why people take offense, it's serious. That is their emotional stability of wrapping their heads around information and responding to what they deem is sane, rational, logical, etc. decisions and thoughts in life... Their cognition is warped by like .. 1. a cog. biased - a. involved in believing their group's thought is the most superior due to a variety of factors. 2. consider than our innate behaviors of desiring group recognition (events that triggers positive stimuli in our psychology). 3. Again, tie group harmony with self acceptance = bing bang boom, a huge way people think...

        The point I was trying to make; the way we think may be evolutionary and sociological but what fuels it, is emotion. What is involved in a fundamentalist* not necessarily religious, person, is in fact the euphoric feeling of what they deem is 'God.' People experience it tripping out, achieving extreme states of endorphins, near death experiences... Again, I ask you.

        Have you ever experienced a moment, where you felt-thought, what these people consider God?
        - A feeling of comfort in knowing and acceptance to be happy in life - to think you are completed ...

        I believe this can be done so entirely by delusional thoughts in tradition and heritage in religion. What we are most familiar with in the majority - Abrahamic fundamentalist. But... It's not gonna go away if you keep knocking them down a peg for having these thoughts, they were probably born with...

        Just the cards we were dealt.... I'm like a religious hipster; religious naturalist (ignosticism)..
        Because... we have natural ways of thinking that are seemingly 'religious' because we are a group- based animal..
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          Aug 15 2012: The psychology of religion is a whole field of its own. Amazing stuff. No one likes to be wrong, but religion is a taboo area for some and tied strongly to identity, for some the foundation of their world view. I guess if you are indoctrinated as a child, grow up believing in Santa Claus and your parents never tell you he might be make believe, decades of reinforcement, its pretty strong stuff.

          I know the feeling you are talking about. I had some sense of it as a born again Christian in the past and something similar from meditating (with no mumbo jumbo beliefs). Nothing that couldn't just be heightened emotional and psychological state on reflection. Maybe not always as profound as others because I very self aware and self conscious, I didn't like to let myself go that way. While I spoke it tongues (still can) cast some demons out occasionally, I didn't like to make a big show or go up front and honestly I felt like I was being a little contrived. On reflection why do you need to let go of your inhibitions and switch you brain off to feel the holy spirit. It seemed like it might just be mind stuff. So the personal experience part, I had it but questioned it.

          On the dogma side, I'm not good at blindly accepting stuff. I read the bible and christian books. The bible didn't help, because, well if you read it with even an ounce of objectively its all you need to see the light so to speak.

          Also I had discussions with non theists or non literalists, and even though I had a lot of the apologetics down pat, over time a 6000 year old earth didn't make sense, I realised eye witnesses in scripture didn't really count as evidence etc etc and all the showmanship, emotional queues in church, the wanting to meet community expectations when slain in the spirit, the speaking in tongues just seemed odd.

          So I've been inside the Christian bubble, lived in a Buddhist country for years, have some new age hippie friends etc.
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          Aug 15 2012: Re ignosticism. Maybe we are closer than you think depending on definitions.

          I call myself and agnostic atheist in regards to the god claims I have heard

          Maybe I have the semantics wrong, but I don't know if there are any gods or goddesses (a gnostic - not know).

          I also have not been convinced by any of the theist or Deist or similar positions so I lack a belief in any gods or goddesses (a theist - not a theist).

          I don't absolutely reject the possibility of gods or goddesses etc.

          Ignostism seems to be sitting on the fence about sitting on the fence.

          I agree that the religious interpreted experience may just be a brain experience. I mean we even go into a state of low level trance watching a movie and lose awareness of our surroundings. When you throw in music, singing, group behaviours and expectations, emotion and release of inhibitions and different brain states than we are use to ......
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        Aug 15 2012: Do you recognize yourself as an atheist, yes or no, why?
        - Which religion do you most recognize with? If you you had to choose?
        - Is fundamentalism in religion a big thing around your area of Australia?
        + Are their a lot of atheist?
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          Aug 15 2012: I don't go around calling myself and atheist, but in regards to god claims I have heard I'm an agnostic atheist

          Maybe I have the semantics wrong, but I don't know if there are any gods or goddesses (a gnostic - not know).

          I also have not been convinced by any of the theist or Deist or similar positions so I lack a belief in any gods or goddesses (a theist - not a theist).

          I don't absolutely reject the possibility of gods or goddesses etc.

          Overall about 60% are nominal Christian downabout 10% in 10 years
          Maybe 5% Pentecostal Baptist or similar. I feel sorry for the US in comparison
          Catholic largest Christian group say 25%
          Then anglican 20%

          I'd class myself as no religion which has grown from 15 to 22% in the last 10 years.
          Up from 1% 50 years ago.
          In the 2001 census I put down Jedi along with 70,000 others

          Scary thing for the Christians is that they are aging and a high proportion of young people are no religion.

          Also immigration has seen 0.5M Buddhists and lots of Muslims and Hindus come to Australia in the last 20 years.

          So more atheists and less evangelicals in Australia. The thing is you can not tell who is an atheist and 4/5 are religious and 3/5 are Christian. Most Atheists don't join atheist groups or organise. I don't.

          While there is not such a stigma to atheism here many still look at you strange or worry about your morals. May the force be with you.
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    Aug 12 2012: Just my subject, thanks:
    My full answer is reasonable and scientific, it is non-religious, instead it covers science, philosophy, psychology, legalities, man's history and the cultural setting he finds himself in at the moment. So I can only give you a very small bit of it here. Let's choose 'reasonable' as the starting point:

    There are two alternatives; either
    1. A materialistic big-bang which gave rise to everything including that most prized of possessions, consciousness,
    2. A spiritual beginning commonly known as God.
    But God requires definition, and we must be careful not to fall into the trap of either infinite regression, or god-of-the-gaps scenario where He fills in the bits that science can't explain until science finds out the real reason and He disappears in a puff of smoke.

    The definition of God I use here will be a Hierarchically Superior Source of Consciousness. Just for the minute we are going to remove the hierachical superiority.

    To avoid the infinite regression trap (well if every effect needs a cause then who created God?), we are going to imagine the time before God was God! There was just an undefined awareness, but an awareness so elemental that it barely knew it was aware and had nothing to be aware of besides itself.

    We then are faced with the alternatives:
    1. Big-bang
    2. Primordial Consciousness

    In the longer answer, I believe I can explain in terms of physics, how you can get matter to arise from consciousness. And I believe that someone called Alex Green has shown mathematically how you cannot get consciousness to arise from matter.

    The conclusion to many is unpalatable. I believe there is much scientific, objective, repeatable evidence available (starting with the Young's slit experiment and much more) to suggest and even conclude that consciousness is the fundamental of reality, not matter.

    God is not religious. He is not Christian, or Hindu or Bhuddist. He simply is.
    Though we can get many answers into His nature from these.
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      Aug 12 2012: Please define consciousness
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        Aug 12 2012: Consciousness – I have to be very careful with this question (e.g. are you trying to catch me out?). There are huge areas of the net focusing on the problem, I could ask you to look them up, but I'll be as helpful as I can as long as you don't try to argue with my help.

        Bhudda found the answer via meditation.

        Someone else said “Consciousness is the projector in the cinema”

        The best technical answer I have come across is this: “Consciousness is that function which converts data into meaning”. In other words we have neurons in the brain passing electrical impulses all over the place a billion times. But it doesn't matter how much you combine them etc. they will always remain electrical impulses. Somehow, something converts this meaningless data into the sensations of light, colour, smell, touch and sound. Somehow something converts these signals into the feelings of emotions.
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        Aug 12 2012: Those philosophers focusing on the problem have defined the concept of 'zombies'. These zombies would have all the brain neurons and physical attributes that we have. They would therefore be capable of everything we do. We (normal people) would be unable to tell the difference between them and us. They wouldn't know what consciousness was, they would think everyone was a zombie, just like them.
        Consciousness is the thing which differentiates us normal people from zombies.

        Consciousness is that subject that Professor Richard Dawkins (professor biology Oxford University, author of the book “The God Delusion”) wants to know more about. When asked in which subject he would like to see more advancement he replied “Consciousness, it is a subject so hard that I don't even know the question, let alone the answer”.
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          Aug 12 2012: I must say it sounds rather wishful, a wish for there to be more than matter.
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      Aug 12 2012: why only those two options?
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        Aug 12 2012: Sorry, yes I realised after, that I missed out some words. It should have read “There are therefore two options to consider as to the origins of everything”.

        I think that clarification (and my previous stuff) should answer your question. Any other possibility is unable to answer either the problem of infinite regression, or god-of-the-gaps.

        Since reality unarguably IS, all we are left with trying to work out is the beginnings of that reality. Today we see an infinite universe of matter and try to explain it using a timeline of 13.7 billion years, but even that gives us an unpalatable and unscientific answer when it defers to a faster-than-speed-of-light inflationary period.

        I am saying that, just like Einstein said, but we seem to have forgotten, time is the illusion. It is so successful that we are caught up in it and thoroughly believe it is real. IT ISN'T! It is actually an illusion, there is more to reality than the illusion.

        But please tell me of any other options if you would like.
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        Aug 12 2012: Eeek, I must absolutely and profoundly stress that I am the furthest possible distance away from being a "creationist". Evolution most definitely happens. I am extremely scientific in my approach to working out the answer to the problem.

        Oh, here's another thing: When talking about consciousness Richard Dawkins once said: It is an unnecessary thing for evolution to occur successfully.

        It's an extraordinary thing which doesn't actually have to be there. And yet this thing which doesn't have to be there produces profoundly significant results in quantum physics experiments.
        As many famous and very intelligent quantum physicists have discovered:
        Consciousness is the foundation of reality.
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          Aug 12 2012: I really enjoyed this. I would like to ask you however... Why not Big Bang, and Primordial Consciousness?

          I think black holes are big bangs btw, so I actually think the scientific question goes back further than we think... but universal, shared, or primordial consciousness don't interfere with the big bang or my theory, in my opinion.

          I also wonder why only one primordial consciousness... Just for fun, why not two? A Yin and Yang, arguing about something?
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      Aug 13 2012: Carl I suggest there are more than two alternatives.
  • Aug 12 2012: g or G Yes, I agree with Ehis your sets are unrelated and do not intersect.
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    Aug 12 2012: I think the god hypothesis, has cognitive value, in being the go to answer in explaining the inexplicable, and believing that life has purpose, even when it is difficult.

    I believe that my hypothesis that "There is no causal evidence that things should exist, or would exist... But, THEY DO!!! As something that exists, I feel I cannot help but believe that is a good thing"... is just a good for me, but to each their own.
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      Aug 12 2012: David I agree it kind of plugs a knowledge gap. Maybe it helps give people meaning even if it is based on nothing but on some cultural imagining or tradition etc.

      But does it really explain anything to say God did it? Isn't that just pushing the question back?

      I'm also glad I exist.
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        Aug 12 2012: It explains that this universe has a specific purpose, and you're a part of it... Not actual scientific creation in any meaningful way. It's nice to think that, and I think if you don't take it too far, it's "Mostly harmless", as Douglas Adams would say of the earth.
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          Aug 14 2012: Hi David, it assumes there is some purpose in terms of being created.
          Even when you unpack the meaning associated with a religious/God type belief it seems to be kind of arbitrary.
          A god made the universe and me and set up some rules and wants me to do this and that so that I go to heaven.
          For me being a creation on the whim of a deity and subject to its setup is not much better than being here as the result of natural processes which we haven't progressed to explain everything.
          It starts to get farcical when everyone has a different interpretation of the deity, setup, rules etc.
          It starts to get sad when people shape their lives on different speculative dogmas and beliefs that may be sexist etc and at the very least in the majority we know are not true because conflicting claims can not both be completely true.

          Thank the gods for Douglas Adams for enriching our lives. One of his talks is about apes with sticks. Loved it.

          Mostly harmless, is not quite the truth or completely benign. I think there is value in pursuing the truth, and not accepting faith based positions as all hunky dory. People are welcome to faith based beliefs, but if they don't stack up, they don't.

          Thanks David.