TED Conversations

Bernard White


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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),

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    Apr 7 2013: "Mean - Intend to indicate or refer to (a particular thing or notion); signify"

    To mean something is to refer to something else. When we say that something has meaning to us, we indicate that this something is connected to something else in our mind. What does "meaning" refer to? It refers to itself. Without context, there is no meaning.

    Another definition of meaning that I like is from here http://logictutorial.com/ - "meaning is exclusion". To say something meaningful is to draw the line between "A" and "not A". One can only define "A" by defining what "A" is not.

    With this in mind, to find meaning in the universe, we need to connect the universe in our mind with something else which is not the universe. I think, this is how people come up with the idea of God or "multiverse". It is simply an attempt to invent a larger context to the universe. Science does not deal with things that are not the part of the universe.

    Logic and reason seem to be the way to establish connections and divisions between things and ideas - see http://logictutorial.com again.

    Dennet's idea seems to be consistent with my idea of context.
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      Apr 7 2013: "Logic and reason"
      Yes but the problem remains that even if something is logical and rational it still may be wrong.
      For example : Low expectations lead to happiness. Yet this isn't actually true, as shown by Tali Sharot in her talk. (This is one of the reason, the stock exchange is so unpredictable!)
      Yet I admit it is the best method, also there remains the uncertainness principle, in the way that we base all conclusions on what has worked in the past, and expect the future to be consistent. Yet we do not "know" for certain just only most "probable". In the way, (I think, yet am not sure about this one!) that according to string theory that our universe could collapse any time soon, yet it is very improbable. Just like how in Quatum physics (and I feel I am getting into terrioty I don't fully understand so please correct me if I am wrong) the Sun could transport somewhere else, and just disappear, yet it is so improbable we just call it "certain".
      I can remember a long time ago, I was told that you could never "prove" a theory to be true, just most probable.
      Sorry got slightly side tracked there? Haha.
      So on another subject, do you view the question : "What is the meaning of life?" a useless question?
      While I must admit, intuitively and I'm not sure why, I do find your definition of meaning lacking in something.

      EDIT : Yet I must admit, without logic all things are possible, contradictions can run rampant. And I can say anything I like. So this comment was not to say we shouldn't be as logical and rational as we can be, with the data we have. Yet just to know that logic and reason may sometimes not be altogether reliable. I HOPE THIS MAKES SENSE. Quite hard to explain, eh?
      Thanks Bernard.
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        Apr 8 2013: Re: "Yes but the problem remains that even if something is logical and rational it still may be wrong. For example : Low expectations lead to happiness."

        Valid logic does not guarantee true conclusions. Valid logic leads to true conclusions if based on true premises. You need to validate premises independently. "Low expectations lead to happiness" is not a logical statement at all. First of all, I have no idea on what premises this statement is made, much less what kind of logic was involved to make this statement.

        Re: "do you view the question : "What is the meaning of life?" a useless question?"

        No. I like the maxim expressed by Mark Meijer in some other TED conversation: "What is true and what is useful are completely different considerations". Usefulness is completely subjective. What is useful to me may be useless to everybody else.

        As I said, meaning depends on experience and context. If I ask you what does "CD" mean, you may answer "compact disk". If you are a banker, you will answer "certificate of deposit", if you are a semiconductor process engineer, you will answer "critical dimension". Other meanings include "Cadmium", "cardiovascular disease", "cause of death" or "change directory" + 10 more pages of possible definitions here http://www.abbreviations.com/CD . Everyone finds the meaning which is the most useful in their context.

        Re: "I can remember a long time ago, I was told that you could never "prove" a theory to be true, just most probable."

        Albert Einstein is reported to have said: No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. (paraphrased) This quote is from Wikipedia which quoting 3 other sources for it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability
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          Apr 8 2013: Yes, I agree with : "Valid logic leads to true conclusions if based on true premises". Yet it is hard to know whether your premises are true or not. This is the entire problem.
          Unless I test my hypothesises. And if I can't, well then I just have to make the "best valid logic" I possibly can with the data I have.
          The logic of low expectations leading to an increase in happiness is this, if we have low expectations we will never be disappointed, therefore we shall always be happy.
          I am not entirely sure I agree with you about meaning being entirely subjective, (and you have revealed your definition of meaning to show some correlation with "usefulness", unless I have misunderstood), I mean we can all agree water has meaning, and is useful for our survival. That is an objective fact. We can all agree that is I put poison in the water, then that is probably not useful.
          Yes things can have many definitions (depending on the context), I do not understand your point here my friend. :-).
          Just like "God" can have many definitions to different people. (And depending on the context...)
          Agree with Einstein.

          I apologize if I sound far more patronizing than I mean to be.

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