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 16 2013: If you assume god has any power that defy the laws of nature, and if you assume that god listens to prayers, you can pray that a solid brick of gold wrapped in a slice of lemon appears out of thin air 10' after the prayer.

    So depending on the assumptions, one can easily make an experiment.

    as for absence of evidence: actually, absence of evidence is informative for absence. Albeit probabilistic.
    (for example: if you look up a word in a dictionary and it is not there, the odds that the word does not exist is very high.) Any finite set that can be searched for X has the property that the more of the set is searched, the lower the odds that X is within (part of) that set.
    So in most cases, absence of evidence increases the odds of absence.
    And if I'm not mistaken, absence of evidence never increases the odds of existence.
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      Apr 16 2013: "So depending on the assumptions, one can easily make an experiment."
      Even if God was a God of intervention, you are assuming it will always answer humans prayers, and that it likes being tested! :P (And are making, probably unconscious, many assumptions about its disposition)
      Also even if you prayer was answered, it could just be correlation, not causation!

      EDIT : And then you couldn't assume anything else about it, but it could intervene in the laws of nature! From your own hypothesis. I hope you see my Dilemma's. I mean it's "possible" there is a God of extreme power, who can intervene in the laws of nature, yet chooses not too!

      "And if I'm not mistaken, absence of evidence never increases the odds of existence."
      I agree. But for someone to convince me to escape from my shell of strong agnosticism (+ a little bit of pantheism) they would have to provide either some sort of deductive + inductive reasoning to tell me that a "God" exists. (After they had defined their terms, of "Existence" and "God".)
      Hope this helped! :D

      EDIT : You have a very high TED Score! :D
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        Apr 17 2013: You are doubting the assumptions I gave as an example...

        One can assume a non-inervening god, but then you assume there are no traces or influences to be found. That would be exactly the same behavior of something that does not exist. So in that case, you can assume it does not exist.

        I can't be sure a pink unicorn is running around on mars, and I'm a teapot-atheist.
        yes, there is always a possibility, but the possibility is so low (well under any p-value, or way lower than the odds of winning the lottery, we are not talking factor 10, but 10 to the x-th factor low values)... I tend to round down to 0 probability.

        As for pantheism or panentheism: if you want to see the "all there is" as something devine or awesome, or as one whole : no problem. If you defing this all as god... also no problem. But then I would say we better speak about cosmos to avoid confusion with all the connotations the word god has.

        (my score is high because of the 25+ TEDx events I organized...)
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          Apr 17 2013: I find that if you can't prove or disprove something it just becomes unknowable. So in that sense there is no point putting probabilities on it!
          Am interested in your reply.
    • Apr 17 2013: Might I just point out that your experiment would fail to prove the existence of anything let alone God. Why would God or anyone for that matter provide you with "a brick of gold wrapped in a slice of lemon." This debate is meant to call upon critical thinking, not bias. I suggest you and your 25+ TED events respect the nature of this conversation.

      As for your experiment you are assuming that you can only measure things by tests that have been discovered and that follow your limited and narrow thinking ( which I say not as an insult, but as a reflection upon the human condition). I am not saying that there is an easy answer, but I am saying that discounting it outright because your limited methods of testing truths cannot prove it is no basis for proving the existence in what many would consider a being that is arguably unlimited. I will also point out that these laws that you refer to are laws that have accomplished one thing which is to show us how very little we actually understand about reality and truth.

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