TED Conversations

Bernard White


This conversation is closed.

Can we ever design an experiment which can determine whether God exists?

I just find it hard to believe when people say : "There is no evidence for God". Yes there isn't because we can't design an experiment to prove or disprove this hypothesis.
However a very important thing, Which I devoted a whole TED Debate to (Here is the link to that debate : http://www.ted.com/conversations/17001/can_god_be_defined_or_in_othe.html), is that to work out whether the hypothesis is true we must first define what we mean by "God" (and "existence" for that matter), which I have found doesn't prove to be very successful. Otherwise we can't advance into going to making experiment for this hypothesis.
In science (I believe) theories can only be disproved and never proved to be "certain", so in this sense everybody has to be an agnostic about God, unless some genius in the TED community can come up with an experiment.
While another problem remains that we base all data we have on experimental data we have gained from the past, and expect the future to be consistent.

So in this sense I am a strong agnostic / Ignostic because God hasn't really been defined (and only has subjective definitions) and that I can't genially think of an experiment to determine whether God exist of not. So yes in the literal sense there is no "evidence" but that's only because no experiment have been done.
(Also there remains the slight problem with the fact that there is a degree of uncertainness in everything, and that no matter how logical and rational a hypothesis may seem it can always be proved false, or untrue)

My final point would be I see no correlation with an absence of evidence, and an evidence of absence! (This is very important)

And of-course, I apologize for repeating myself (if I have done so!) and my awful spelling and grammar.
Just so I say now, so I get no confusion, this is just an honest enquiry as to whether it can be done! (Not trying to reduce "God" in any way!)


Closing Statement from Bernard White

I'm slightly worreid I won't do a good job of this summary but here I go :

I must first say this :
I implore everybody to look at my "new" God debate :
What does the theological implications do the "Psychology" and "Neuroscience" (and possibly biology) of religion/ "God(s)" have?
Link : http://www.ted.com/conversations/18226/what_does_the_theological_impl.html

This has been a wonderful debate with lots of interesting idea's. However I view, with the majority consensus, (and please correct me if I have got this wrong) that there isn't a experiment which can (dis)prove the existence of "God(s)".
I would just like to congratulate everybody for their amazing contributions to the conversation. It has given me a lot to ponder.
Kind regards (to all),

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Apr 1 2013: Hello Bernard,
    I assume you intend only material scientific experiments, with tools, formulas, computers, plans, people, lab equipment, space exploration, sensing equipment----any specialty tools or machines. I would agree with Peter. No such man-made equipment exists or is possible to exist to prove what is spirit. The only real experiment that would work is to design a query to be available to every possible human being in the world in which a person would testify. Only experience with spirit personalities via faith, prayer, thoughts et al could prove God. A massive, truly massive data base of testimony of beliefs based on persons actual experience would be useful.

    Who could or would organize such an extensive enterprise? Perhaps such an experiment has been underway for a 100,000 years in the form of religions based on beliefs. Such experiments may not satisfy precise thinking scientists, but such evidence cannot be ignored. The religion-experimenting activities of humankind mind may not be omniscience of the ideal levels, but personal experiences cannot be disproved. In other words, what experiment developed to date can prove no person ever had any experience with God? What machine or experiment can prove Gabriel did not appear to Elizabeth and then to Mary? Imagine Mary working at a low stone table in her day and suddenly this apparition appears and announces to her she is to bear a child of promise! Imagine telling 1,500 people they never saw the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth appear to them after his crucifixion. Many people did see him in several weeks after his death and they went abroad to announce what they saw and heard.

    Experience is difficult to prove it never happened.

    What is to be gained by attempting what cannot be done?

    Food for thought.
    • thumb
      Apr 1 2013: "What is to be gained by attempting what cannot be done?"
      A very good question. I (from intuition) would answer : You gain the knowledge that it the knowledge concerning God is unattainable by physical means, and then therefore everybody has to be an strong agnostic, and that belief (in my opinion) of course become irrelevant. (Unless a "God" can be logically proven or dis proven, which I don't really think it can to be honest, but am always open to correction)
      Not to say that "Faith" becomes irrelevant at all! If anything, if this conclusion was found, it would strengthen the position of faith, yet belief does. extremely probable, (for nobody has dis proven it yet, and I don't think ever will, yet I can't predict the future), while it is not really a matter of belief whether you evolution is true or not. So then you can believe evolution isn't true, but this doesn't really effect whether it is true or not.
      So if you apply this to God, it is unknowable to know whether a "God" exists, yet believing either way doesn't really change the fact. While you can have "faith" either way.
      I hope I have explained myself to a sufficient level, for I struggle explaining these complicated thoughts to people. And most of all : I hope I have not offended you in any way, I was just typing what I was thinking really.
      • thumb
        Apr 2 2013: RE: "I'm not really sure how you could. . . " You are correct to doubt that the confirmation of a hypothesis will lead one to have faith that God exists. That is not how it works. According to Biblical doctrine things not seen have evidence of their existence, and things hoped for have substance. You can discover what it is for yourself in the first verse of the eleventh chapter of the New Testament book of Hebrews (King James Version)
      • Apr 2 2013: "So if you apply this to God, it is unknowable to know whether a "God" exists", quoting you Bernard.

        This is the point: God is knowable because millions have said they've had some degree of experience and religions developed. Events happened in peoples' lives and they were witnesses. To say that God is unknowable is to disregard others' experiences. Personal experience trumps scientific theory.

        Why ask if an experiment could be developed if the conclusion is final---that God is unknowable?

        We are all non-omniscient beings; let's do our best to seek truth in whatever thoughts come to mind and whatever philosophy is helpful at hand.

        Best regards.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.