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: the fact that were here proves a force of creation was set in motion. I think what scientist scrutinize mostly is the bible.(though all religion is spiritual,you needn't be religious to be spiritual) I also understand the need to prove ones faith, everybody looks up to this essential part of our society and rightfully so.its just crazy how quickly skepticism becomes ridicule.
    • Apr 7 2013: Well said!
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      Apr 7 2013: without the ridicule, the reward of self-discovery is useless. in a universe of dichotomy, why in the world would anyone expect something else..?
      • Apr 7 2013: the rewards i get from self discovery are independent of and do not require ridicule. I dont take anything personal, but its just an observation ive made while being an active TEDizen.Im sure its a learned behavior passed down over several generations of scientific scholars.
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          Apr 7 2013: you see only what you want... your rewards depend solely upon the ridicule, either self-imposed or from another(imagined or experienced, which the brain does not decipher the difference) that you receive for not growing and achieving as a person. that is not independent but interdependent. your self-development and or enlightenment(whatever you want to name it) is your religion. as iron sharpens iron, so shall man sharpen man(i'm paraphrasing). you can only experience beauty because there is ugliness... I mean, c'mon. philosophy 101, no?
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          Apr 10 2013: I agree Nathan...self discovery certainly CAN be free of ridicule, and this is preferable in my perception. I see no reason to ridicule myself or others while discovering. In fact, if we are spending time and energy with ridicule (either self-imposed or from/for others), we may not actually be discovering as much as we could, without the dynamic of ridicule coloring our beliefs and experiences:>)

          I'm still maxed out for thumbs up for you Nathan.....sending appreciation your way for your insightfulness:>)
      • Apr 7 2013: thanks for the lesson bro. i understand what you mean now. though calling one a quack because s/he has a belief in something without using the qualifying factors someone else would is just being a jackhole....reflection on the deliverer , not the reciever.I guess that's why I'm here...mental sharpening.
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        Apr 7 2013: Haha.
        You should have this conversation with Gail.
        She believes that there are no such things as morals, and that it is cultural myth that there has to be unhappiness (ugliness) for there to be happiness (Beauty). (For she believes happiness is a complete choice, and that you can achieve happiness but just wishing it so. Which I disagreed with her completely. Yes I could accept that happiness was a choice to a certain extent, but not a complete choice.)
        While I have never got people who say : Certain things need to be experienced. It is like saying : To accept my business module, you must first experience it, and become enlightened enough. Which in my opinion wouldn't do very well.
        Yet I accept your point to a certain extent.
        Would be interested in your opinion non this.
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          Apr 7 2013: you guys don't see that what i'm saying is yes, you're correct, but not completely. you can't get wet from the word water and you can't learn to swim by watching. maybe you reduce the uncertainty, but until you DO something you cannot KNOW something.

          happiness is only a choice because there IS unhappiness. what is happiness? people are "happy" when they are making progress from where they are toward where they want to be. this goes for a champion sports figure to the single parent hustling to raise a child to the terrorist ready to die for his/her cause... it is the meaning we assign to the experiences of our lives that shapes our lives, nothing else. circumstances are irrelevant.

          our view of god is directly evident in the snap-shot of who we are at this very moment. what does that say about you..? (rhetorical set-up questions here..) what god do you serve? where is your attention focused on a consistent basis? do you have difficulty in relationships? how do you present yourself, as a member of a human family or do you see yourself as an animal fighting for survival on your own...?

          this is what's real. these are the questions you need to ask yourself. if you're not asking these types of questions of yourself then none of these conversations will do anything but feed your need to be right by always having a subject to vent your fear of self-realization.
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        Apr 7 2013: I can accept that experiencing bit is learning. Yet in an argument using logic this isn't usually a very valid argument.
        In the way I could say anything, and then just add : "You just have to experience it". (E.G Zeus is real, just not many people have experienced him!) Or 1 + 1 = 4. "You just have to experience it."
        While living in the present, with no real goal around just being happy isn't "making progress from where they are toward where they want to be". Also you are talking about Natural happiness here.
        "circumstances are irrelevant", so a Jew about to be gassed should be just as happy (if (s)he chooses to be) as someone who just one the lottery? (While I can see where your coming from, for there is statistical evidence suggesting that : Lottery winners and Paraplegics after 4 months have equal levels of happiness! Watch Daniel Gilbert's talk : The surprising science of happiness!.)
        Also if you are talking about morals, how "circumstances don't matter", in the way no person should ever kill themselves. I would disagree. (But will only go into this, if you want me too!)
        Not sure whether or not God reflects our current emotional state or dispirit-on. For instance if I was angry (and was quite cruel), and I viewed that God was "all loving" then this wouldn't be consistent.
        While this is an interesting hypothesis nonetheless, which I believe does have some credibility to it, after having given it some more thought!
        To be honest, with you I find your thoughts very interesting indeed. And will give them further consideration! (Sorry to sound so negative in this response.)

        What do I believe is real : Uncertainty. That is the only real thing I know to be true. (As well as possibly myself!)
        I have been uncertain about many things, and still am. So I choose to seek advice, from people like you, on whatever springs to mind. :) And am usually (with some difficultly) always willing to accept I am wrong, if someone finds a flaw in my logic.
        Kind regards,
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          Apr 7 2013: wow, where do I start... ok, your zeus argument, while I completely understand your point, does not account for the quality of the logic itself. math is already a set system of logic we all agree on because when applied accurately, it works for everyone.

          you cannot compare this to religious philosophy in which the meanings and relativity of language and symbolism are more abstract generalizations of conduct rather than rule of laws to be obeyed.

          yes, i am familiar with mr. gilbert's talk and his point with the winner/loser scenario, circumstance irrelevant to happiness. I do support that. maybe you are confusing peacefulness with happiness? I don't know. but you can choose to be happy when it seems you have nothing to be happy about. of course, it is easier said than done and this is why people spend their whole lives on the brink of depression.

          now, morals... no, I wasn't touching on that. but suffice to say that, to me, morals are just another name for a belief system that run your decision-making, sometimes very aggressively, and I believe this falls back into the category of "choice". your point about god reflecting your state is right on. whether you are a Christian or jew or muslim or atheist, it is our "idea" of god that rules our lives. if you have no god, then your god may be truth, or love, or money or success... but you serve god. the thing is... how's that workin for ya? ask that.
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        Apr 7 2013: REPLY 2. (:D)
        Actually after thinking about it. That statement you made about God being a reflection of who we are, and what we want it to be. Seems pretty reasonable to me!
        Considering the fact that when the old testament was written, it was written by some people who lived in a extremely violent time, with no real deterants (where there was endless warfare between small nations). Who dehumanized all other people, outside their in-group, and how life was probably quite cheap back then. (Due to life expectancy).
        So in that sense a "Jealous angry God", would be reflection of what they (most probably) felt. And the fact that it would help to dis encourage various behaviours. (Like stealing!)
        Would be interested in your opinion on this.
        So in that sense you would expect people's perception of "God" to be a more "loving nice God". (Depending on their perspective on the world!)

        I hope you don't mind me going on!
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          Apr 7 2013: love to converse with a beautiful soul about truth my friend, thank you for your honesty and sincerity!

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        Apr 7 2013: I will reply later. Sorry for the really long reply(s).
        Hope you didn't mind! :D
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      Apr 7 2013: The fact we are here seems to be the result of natural processes or unexplained

      Not some agency.
      • Apr 8 2013: it was the result of natural processes. conducive conditions for life to develope and thrive for the life of its local star, u.less one species becomes inteligent enough to spread before there star dies out.
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          Apr 13 2013: hey colleen! thank you for your sharp questions!
          -Do you honestly believe, Glenn, that all people who do not believe in a god are resentful and do not believe because of spite?" great question, and for the record, I said atheists not all people who don't believe. huge difference(some are just ignorant of the truth because of circumstance). short answer, no. I should have said "most" atheists. since I myself am atheist, I must allow the possibility for every other atheist to wake up and know god instead of fighting christians or jews or muslims... yes I am most certain, indeed.

          "Is it possible for you to even consider that some of us have done a GREAT deal of research, study, and practices of various religious and philosophical beliefs for many years and choose, with information that we have at this time to not believe in a god?" fair question, but I would say what is your source? a great deal of research with no demonstration is unfinished business as far as i'm concerned. I have done extensive research myself, so what makes you assume mine was as unfruitful as yours? evidence is available in the very spot you sit.
          I can see that god is life. not living nor does he give life, but life itself. god is truth. not truthful but truth itself. some things are true certain times or places but god is absolute truth. god is love. not loving but love itself. "...god is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in god and god in him" (1john4:16) god is intelligence. an engine intelligently designed has no unnecessary parts and neither does the universe or ourselves which leads to god is soul. soul is that aspect in which god individualizes into parts, the silent obserever behind our thoughts. like drops of water separate from their source, same but not whole. god is also spirit. matter wears out but spirit is eternal. god is principle. water seeks its own level, triangles are always 180degrees, true now, true forever.
          that is why I am certain. and yes, we already have.
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          Apr 13 2013: Hey Glenn.......you are welcome:>) I am pretty clear with your statement Glenn....here it is again "for the record", as you say:>)

          "Glenn Bromiley
          3 days ago:
          "I think atheists are just resentful toward god for what stupid people do in god(s) name and they just cannot bear to align themselves in any way. disbelief out of spite."

          And for the record, here is my question:
          Colleen Steen
          3 days ago: "Do you honestly believe, Glenn, that all people who do not believe in a god are resentful and do not believe because of spite?"

          You now say that "since I myself am atheist, I must allow the possibility for every other atheist to wake up and know god..."

          Once you start believing in a god, doesn't that take you out of the "atheist" catagory according to the accepted definition?

          My "sources" are too many to even mention here....60+ years of studying and practicing different religions and philosophical beliefs. I totally agree with you that research with no demonstration is not as valuable. Nowhere did I say or even suggest that your research or belief was "unfruitful".

          I am very curious about you calling yourself an atheist and believing in a god. That seems contradictory if one is looking at the accepted definition. How does that work?
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        Apr 8 2013: physical form is the manifestation of thought. everything around you started with a thought. the fact that we are here really has no bearing on "why" we are here.

        when you ask why we are here, eventually you come to understand that you are not that which you see in the mirror. you begin to see that spirit is cause and physical manifestation is the effect.

        the universe is the organic inventory of unlimited possibilities in which our conscience has access to build our own reality with. there's a finite supply of iron in the universe... only so much to go around. some of it is swooshing around in your blood. where was that iron before you showed up? and where will it be when you leave? you are not that material.

        ever wonder why the universe is expanding faster and faster? ever wonder how karma and reincarnation work? instead of being kooky religious practices and dogma, have you ever tried to understand why people use it? ever tried meditation? how far have you ever gone to understand something you had difficulty understanding?

        are you open-minded? how can you learn anything if you already know everything? in the tao te ching there is a passage that states, "when the student is ready, the teacher appears". this, to me, means all you have to do is be ready to learn, and you will. keep asking questions, but ask better and better questions!
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          Apr 8 2013: Hi glen,

          I'm not sure how you reach that conclusion in your first paragraph, unless you are confusing perception with existence.

          We probably disagree about why we are here even more than how we got here.

          I disagree with your assumptions about spirits and causes. Suggest you might be right, but do could a million other speculative assertions.

          I understand the scientific explanation of why the universe is expanding. I don't speculate in these sense you might as to why questions. You might be looking for meaning where there is no inherent meaning.

          I meditate. Wife is a yoga instructor. Some friends are into gurus etc. I lived in a Buddhist country for some years and learnt quite a bit about buddhism. Not an expert. I see no compelling evidence for supernatural karma or reincarnation.

          Not sure why you would assume I'm close minded just because I disagree with you on some issues and reasonasbly point out god type beliefs are contradictory, speculative, and most must be false and possibly all are, and you have not given any reasons why yours are correct.

          An open mind does not mean you have to give up being logical and reason ably skeptical.

          I agree questions are important for understanding.

          Are you certain your beliefs about gods and spirits are correct?

          Do you concede they could be completely wrong?
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        Apr 8 2013: thank you for your perspective sir jedi. are you saying that because you meditate and your wife teaches yoga make you open minded? I will not assume you to be dishonest, but my experience has shown me the folly of such an assumption.

        just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't there and just because you settle for less meaning doesn't mean others could not or should not find more meaning in their universe. I am completely prepared to recant and repent when evidence points elsewhere. and yes, I am certain because all evidence of how the universe works points to the existence of "god".

        if you were to have a slice of apple pie, and you took this slice and asked it "what are you"? the apple pie would have to say, "well, I must be like what I came from, so, I must be a slice of apple pie." is this scientific enough for you?

        your soul/conscience weighs nothing. why would you settle for scientific explanations if they can only tell you who you used to be and when things happened? science makes the map, you have to explore it, pal. I use logic and reason to bridge the gaps that stubborn thinkers create.

        of course, the proof is in the puddin' so yeah, I understand some folks who think they did a lot of things, been lots of places and hang out with gurus may feel like they have it all figured so why push? if nothing is done, then nothing is left undone... yup.

        I am just someone who was asleep at the wheel most my life and now has awakened to self-development and self-education and learning as much as I can on religion, sociology, psycology and even some economics... learned from a hindu swami and all denominations of Christianity. read as much as I could as fast as I could and readily admit the self-education was long and difficult, especially being self-employed with family of four, but I am a thousand times more certain in what I've come in conscience contact with on my journey than in anything on earth. I wish the same for you my jedi friend.
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          Apr 9 2013: I'm just saying I don't live in an atheist bubble.

          Also I have changed my world view over time.

          Im also happy to borrow or absorb ideas that I find superior to mine.

          Are you implying if I don't find your subjective beliefs convincing I must be closed minded.

          If you have benefited from your personal spiritual journey, if it has enriched your life, great. Please don't assume my own personal journey has not been just as rewarding without a current belief in gods.

          Do you accept that equally certain people having similar experiences have come to different conclusions?

          Do you accept that this type of spiritual journey is subjective. That your beliefs in 10 years may be very different than today.

          Your certainty in your interpretations of your experience is the aspect I question. What makes you think your beliefs are correct and all those who disagree are wrong. Can you see that it is all very subjective. If one man has one vision of god and a woman has an equally profound but contradictory experience of god, they can not both be correct and there is no way to tell if it is just going on in their brains.

          I don't know, so I don't have a belief in gods. People accuse atheists of being close minded while holding their interpretation of gods and subjective experiences with certainty. Ironic?
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        Apr 10 2013: I respect your sincerity and your obvious wisdom gained from your experience, and I accept your opinion. no, i'm not trying to convince you or anyone of anything. I wouldn't consider offering food as "feeding" no more than I would my simplistic analogies and metaphors as convincing or persuading. it is just what it is, a simple logic that unveils a compelling, absolute truth. if you ignore it, that's on you.

        no, I do not assume your personal journey and mine should line up in any way. we are merely at an intersection and I am learning from you and you are (possibly) learning from me. "as iron sharpen iron, so shall man sharpen man" 1john 4:16

        my beliefs have changed almost constantly for many years now and will continue to evolve, no doubt. one thing is for certain though, you cannot go back or stay the same. we can only go forward. if you don't change your mind, life steps in to change it for you. my temporary conclusions only serve as stepping stones to the next lesson.

        as for my certainty, why would my certainty bring to question the validity of my point? I am certain in my beliefs because they cannot be wrong. my beliefs are formed from the best logical arguments anyone ever managed to argue. I can see where atheists have superior scientific and secular logic at the same time I see the superior attention to the needs of the soul by religious groups. my view encompasses yours, and everyone else's because I exclude no-one. in your exclusivity is your weakness. same for all the rest of the religions. you do believe in god, just not everybody else's god... now, if you don't know that, then you may need to pay attention to your attention.

        in closing, no, I don't think you are closed minded and accuse you of nothing other than being a beautiful soul in which dwells the light of all light. I think atheists are just resentful toward god for what stupid people do in god(s) name and they just cannot bear to align themselves in any way. disbelief out of spite.
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          Apr 10 2013: Glenn,
          You say..."I am certain in my beliefs because they cannot be wrong. my beliefs are formed from the best logical arguments anyone ever managed to argue"...."I see the superior attention to the needs of the soul by religious groups".
          "my view encompasses yours, and everyone else's because I exclude no-one".

          Glenn, There are many different beliefs regarding a god/no god, and yet with your statements and beliefs, you apparently group ALL atheists...."I think atheists are just resentful toward god for what stupid people do in god(s) name and they just cannot bear to align themselves in any way. disbelief out of spite".

          Do you honestly believe, Glenn, that all people who do not believe in a god are resentful and do not believe because of spite?

          Is it possible for you to even consider that some of us have done a GREAT deal of research, study, and practices of various religious and philosophical beliefs for many years and choose, with information that we have at this time to not believe in a god?

          BTW...do you think/feel we can ever "design an experiment which can determine whether God exist or not?"

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