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 8 2013: Re: "You are making a mockery of the idea of God! Call it character assassination!"

      I totally agree. Dragging God into the realm of physically detectable things, subject to scrutiny and analysis does seem like a lack of understanding of both faith and science. God is not a giant squid.

      I totally support the TEDx red flag for pseudoscience: "The fusion of science and spirituality. Be especially careful of anyone trying to prove the validity of their religious beliefs and practices by using science".


      I think, attempts to present religious claims as scientific can lead to much evil as well as treating scientific beliefs with religious devotion.
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        Apr 8 2013: Again I am confused by this statement.
        Have I tried to prove any "religious belief" by the use of science? No, in my opinion.
        You view that God cannot be accessed by science and this was the question.

        Also you are assuming God isn't some massive squid (this is where my Ignostic self kicks in) which controls the universe on a minor note. And if I believed that God was a really powerful squid then you would be doing mockery to my God, saying that God was not a giant squid. (And is a self-aware ultimate squid, the most powerful thing we can imagine, that is all knowing, all powerful and all loving ect.)

        (In relation to your whole subjective thing, I may find what you find "mockery" not "mockery". So is "mockery" just subjective, and I can just say : It is just your opinion. Which is one of the problems I find with subjective(ness), not saying it is true or not)
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          Apr 8 2013: Re: "Have I tried to prove any "religious belief" by the use of science? No, in my opinion."

          You haven't. And I haven't said that you did. However, if we assume that God is detectable by scientific method, we open the doors for religious science and scientific religion. And that's where things can get sticky.

          Re: "So is "mockery" just subjective, and I can just say : It is just your opinion."

          Yes, you can. I will totally agree with you. Defining something as "mockery" is completely subjective. I don't see any problems here :-).
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        Apr 8 2013: Agree, to be honest! :D (I love it when we reach consensus! It feels so rewarding!)
        I find that with these subjective things, then there are subjective objective truths. (In the way you could calculate what makes certain people feel offended independent of what they believe) If that makes any sense. :P
        Also once you have defined offensive you can easily (objectively) calculate what certain people would fine offensive, if you have enough information about them.
        Hope I have explained this well enough!
        Yet yeah I do agree with you the whole "offence" is mostly subjective.
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      Apr 8 2013: If the answer is "No", then the answer is "No!". (In your opinion of course, which I would be inclined to agree with) :)
      This is all I wanted, I just wanted to see whether some people believed there was observational or experimental evidence which could prove (or disprove) God in the physical realm we live in.
      I do not see how this is making mockery of the idea of God at all, this is partly why I am a strong agnostic about God. I see no way, using scientific method (as I understand it, if I have got something wrong, please just tell me! :p) to prove or disprove God.
      I am interested though, did you think I was expecting people to prove to me that their faith is valid, or prove to me that their God is applicable to science.
      I was not expecting this
      While I do not know why, and mean no ill, it is just your comment (intuitively) reminded me of a debate I once enjoyed : "Does the freedom of expression (some would call this pluralism) include the freedom to offend?". (Not going to say anything about my opinion on this debate.)
      However, I can see your answer to this question is "No" to the debate.
      I do not understand your point about Baloney though, I can be sure (if I accept the external world exists) that Baloney does exist, because I can test on it. And see it, and hold it. (Basically what I am trying to say, why have you put "Baloney" and "God" in the same category. If anything this is a slight mockery to God. Baloney is an inanimate (physical) object which is to be consumed, while God is sometimes defined as the most powerful incomprehensible immaterial being we can possible conceive. They are very different things!)
      Just to say : I mean no offence in this reply, I just find your demonstrations, well, rather confusing to be honest.

      EDIT : With regard to the C.S Lewis talk, would "string theory" or solipsism fit into either of the categories of : This universe is all there is, or there is an intelligent "designer" behind it? (Or am I misunderstanding something here?)
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      Apr 9 2013: It seemed too me the question was asked in the interest of honest enquiry, not mocking.

      But that is just my opinion.

      Although it is just reinforcing most ideas about god are subjective and not testable.

      Actually we can measure many things we can not see, using technology. Temperature, infra red, microscopic things. It is just gods seem most often to be conceptualised as something outside of the reality we can observe. Which is rather convenient, but leads to all the different contradictory beliefs because there is no compelling evidence that gods exist let alone their nature and what they want from humans, if anything. The cathedrals and mosques don't make the associated religious claims any less subjective and suspect.

      Also I suggest some of the god related claims can be tested when they relate to reality. If someone says the gods live in a physical villa on mount Olympus, or the universe is 6000 years old, we can test these claims.
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        Apr 9 2013: "It seemed too me the question was asked in the interest of honest enquiry, not mocking."
        That's all it was, couldn't have put it better myself.
        "the universe is 6000 years old, we can test these claims."
        Agree. :D
        "If someone says the gods live in a physical villa on mount Olympus"..."we can test these claims."
        Not so sure about this one though! I mean, they may be invisible and undetectable creature who live in the physical world.
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          Apr 10 2013: I meant physical Greek gods and their villas.

          Also if we can not agree on a definition of god or the gods or goddeses, if we can prove they exist or confirm their nature, intent etc, what conclusions does this lead to.

          For me this supports freedom of and from religion, and hopefully some appreciation ones god beliefs are somewhat speculative, so tolerance for other theists, deist, pantheists, atheist perspectives.
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        Apr 9 2013: Obey and Bernard,
        For what it's worth, I perceive the question was asked with interest and honesty as well. I see no "mocking" of anything. Some folks do not like their personal beliefs questioned in any way!

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