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: Feel I must post this at the top of the conversation, to form a sort of "sub debate" within this debate.
    For many people are mentioning how they have "experienced" God.
    "I have always been confused by people who go : "You have to experience God".I would guess it is people who have experience something which they can't explain, and feel mystical and label it "GOD". (This is just a pure hypothesis, I am probably wrong on this!) And then try and reinforce that belief with various arguments."
    This the comment I wrote in response to Obey No1Kinobe. :D (This was said, in a more positive light, by William Lane Craig who roughly said : "I have personally experienced God, so of all the arguments from my career are just reinforcing, and trying to understand that experience with God I had")
    Am interested, in everybody who has participated in this debates, comments on this. :D (Hope no one takes offence!)
    • Apr 8 2013: Hi Berard!
      We've returned from our walk (and I enjoyed a nice cigar too)! I've had my favorite Sunday afternoon snack - a pomegranate Pop Tart and a cup of hot 'Constant Comment' tea with a splash of fruit juice ... Mmmm, Mmmm! My magic digits are poised above my keyboard and what should I see, but a subtopic on folks who have experienced god!
      Now on 'experiencing god' - for lack of a better phrase for it here. No offense taken, bud! I'm sure you understand when folk's inability to properly communicate an experience beyond normal every day life. Our communication between each other, depends on a common reference store and an agreed upon set of symbolic elements - and even then, we often misunderstand each other.
      Yet, for folks who have had this 'profound' experience, it is often truly life changing. The experience is so very concrete. It can involve all the senses and at the same time be powerfully 'telepathic'. I suspect it involves an "Implicate" (to reference David Bohm), form of our 'natural' senses. They often want to have more of it and to try to understand the energy-mechanism that can cause it to happen - this is at least my personal experience and of others' I've read of. I've referenced several examples; such as Neural Surgeon, Eban Alexander. But, you will have to ... you know. Again, I reference the Monroe Institute's resources as a starting point.
      If you are interested in trying to connect with ... you know who (or what?), as a personal 'scientific' experiment - just let me know. I can offer four specific exercises for you (and anyone else, reading this with interest), that may well produce an interesting result. I am assuming here that a real investment of time and energy will be given to this pursuit!
      The thing about sitting on the fence too long is .... er, your butt gets sore!
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      Apr 8 2013: I don't dispute people have profound experiences.

      I mean I have amazing dreams that feel real. In some I'm flying. The most vivid were on medication after surgery.

      We known about half of children have imaginery friends.

      Humans hallucinate. We also see or hear what we expect to hear. If you see lips making a p sound you hear a b sound as a p sound. Our brains interpret whats we perceive.

      I heard of a doctor who started seeing angels and demons erupting from the ground. Instead of believing what he saw is real, he went to hospital and told them which part of his brain he might be having a stroke in. He was correct.

      If you hear the voice of god audibly, I suggest you record it and play it back. This is what some people do to confirm its in their head, not real outside of their head.

      It seems there are either lots of tricky gods telling people different things, or people are misinterpreting god, or they are imagining a being, its just happening inside their head. If you spend years imagining a god I'm not surprised it seems real. Attributing feelings rather than conversations or visions to being touched by god is even mother subjective.

      My understanding is psychologists differentiate between cultural religious delusions expetriences and those that sit outside the norms. So if you hear the voice of Jesus or believe you have been touched by the holy spirit, this might be treated differently to hearing the voice of napolian.

      Our mind is amazing but subject to misfiring etc.

      I suggest hearing the voice of napolian or of god are equally most likely to be the product of our minds, not contacting some supernatural being.

      In summary the god experiences lead to contradictory conclusions and could be similar to dreams or meditative brain states or misfirings etc.

      Maybe some people are experiencing a god, or talking with the spirit of napolian. How do we tell if it is just going on in their heads?

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