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 22 2013: Hi everyone. I've been trying to keep up with the flow in TEDland but it ain't easy. Well, you seem like a friendly lot, so I hope you don't mind me joining in with me ravings. All comments welcome. I'm just going to eat this piece of pie.

    On something from nothing - I do not believe that the universe came from nothing or that God/god created the universe or that it started with a singularity. I would like to suggest that this universe is one of many that have exsisted. That it started when the collapsed matter from the previous universe reached the Alpha state, that is when all the indivisible finite parts of the universe reach a state of maximum unity at which point there would be no space/time between them. I believe that the Alpha state would have built-in instability as the number of finite part is equal to an ultimate prime number. That gravity inverted to cause expansion. That the evolving universe is a construct of the progressive relationship between those finite particles and that we along with the rest of creation are a result of those complex relationships. I also believe that gravity acting throughout the whole of the universe can never have a value of nil or infinity. That when the energy in the universe has finally been spent that gravity will cause it's collapse and in it's final moments all creation will break down into those fundimental parts and the whole thing will start again.

    That if there is a God/god it is merely a wave function expressing the eternal expansion and contraction of the universes. That God/god might therefore be expressed as both the whole and eternal but also the individual and finite. And that belief in God/god is a natural occurance brought about by the feeling of separation from the whole.

    The pie was nice! Thank God/god/whatever for pie ( and cake).
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      Apr 22 2013: There is a theory that the universe as we know it is a repeat of previous universes that had expanded to their max and collapsed into a ball that exploded into this universe.. OK, it's a theory and has it's supporters among cosmologists. And that is one possible explanation of the big bangs kept reproducing until this time when we have biomass of living, reproductive sentient beings. That could lead credence to the random selection over an extended period of time. This would imply that in the previous collapses, the pattern selections were inscribed in the tiny mass that created the big bang. I got to admit that gravity and the 3 other universal forces are part of the complex evolution of universe. However, is this theory anymore then my contention that an "intelligence" created the patterns and this is the original bang.....? So, God is a wave function, I've heard Him called a mathematical algorithm, the fifth universal force, and a figment of my imagination.
      So, is this whole conversation about semantics? You say tomato and I say tomahto? Like there is no God, but there is something else?
      You guys are giving me a headache.
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        Apr 22 2013: Welcome to the atheist dilemma in part. Everyone has a slightly to very different concept of gods or goddesses.

        Some of the concepts barely warrant the name god or goddess.

        Each one needs to be assessed on its own merits.

        Headache indeed.
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          Apr 23 2013: Here is where to draw the line. People of faith believe in God, A great number are monotheists and a bunch more are polytheists. then there are the Buddhists and others that are sort of "non-theists". In each case, these people find their belief in faith and there is truth in faith.
          Atheist and other non believers give all sort of rational why the believers are wrong. Here is my question: WHY? and WHO CARES? If you don't believe, is it that important to you to find find fault, impute mental defections, all sorts of things that have been even listed here. Does this castigation imply mental superiority by atheist?
          Have bad things been done in the name of God?
          Have bad things been done not in the name of God?
          Is there some secret fund that pays atheist to find constructs disproving the existence of God as held by the believers?
          Personally, I find it petty to criticizes someone else's beliefs. Worse, they might criticize mine.
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        Apr 24 2013: For me, as an atheist, i just point out there is no compelling evidence to support a belief in gods and goddesses.

        The theists, deists, etc assert there is at least one god, the buddhists assert reincarnation. The burden of proof is on you. And all we get is fallacious arguments.

        All im doing is disagreeing with you on the existence of gods and goddesses. Im reminding you no good reason has been provided to believe in the existence of gods, other than utility, and a psychological plug etc.

        Its an intellectual discussion. No one is forcing you to partake or change your mind.

        Personally i find it strange to consider disagreeing with others for good reason, in a peaceful way, something petty. Is it a tactic when your arguments are flawed and weak, to revert to stating criticising the views of others is something bad?

        Whats the big deal if people disagree or criticise your beliefs, if people think you are wrong? You are free to go on believing what you want.

        If you dont want your ideas discussed you dont need to put your views forward, or find a forum where you can proclaim your views without others being able to feedback, to converse, to agree, disagree, build on or whatever.

        Freedom of speech should include the right to disagree and critique ideas, even to offend imo. Religious beliefs should not be off limits.
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          Apr 24 2013: I find no compelling evidence to either support a "God" or to devalue a "God".
          So the most accurate label for me, is just an "Agnostic".
          However, I do find it "possible" that a God could exist.
          Yet recently with my I have been discussing the definition of "existence", and my mind kind of exploded. Because it does seem an awfully hard word to define.

          While I did think of a way to settle this debate once and for all.
          If you define existence as "all that is physical and material", then God being an "immaterial, non-physical being", by definition doesn't (and can't) exist. But then a Vacuum doesn't exist, and a "idea's" don't exist.
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        Apr 24 2013: Also, theists, deists etc have conflicting views. Im not sure how you can ignore people of different faiths have contradictory beliefs.

        Some believe in gods that want homosexuals killed, that donkeys talked, that jesus travelled to the americas, other theists have very different beliefs and dogma.

        The greatest threat to a particular theist is probably other theists, not atheists.

        I guess more christians have been killed by other christians historically, than atheists. The history of europe is filled with centuries of christians killing each other, often in the name of religion.

        I dont think im better than theists. I just think theists are wrong in regards to the god question. And it doesnt really matter what i think, the arguments have more or less merit inpedpendent of who might thing they are superior. Actually ive met plenty of religious folk who think their beliefs make them supier to atheists.
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        Apr 27 2013: Hi bernard, im an agnostic atheist

        Agnostic not gnostic, not claiming to know.
        I mean i dont even know of all the different god concepts through history. How can i know they are false.

        Atheist, not a theist, not having a belief in gods. Because i dont know if any are reasonbly correct, there is no reason to believe, based on whether the claims are correct. There may be social, cultural or economic or psychological reasons to try and believe.

        I agree gods could exist as conceptualised by humans, or more likely something very different to human imaginings. There could be ten billion gods on my tablet, or in every atom.

        If there were some compelling evidence of their existence i would believe. Even if there was some convincing rationale to support a particular concept i would shift from them all most likely being wrong in most respects, to something more likely, even without hard evidence. However all the arguments i have heard from the uncaused cause on seem flawed, fallacious, built on false premises, or speculative, or relying on personal experiences that for all we know are just cognitive or natural psychological states, with subjective interpretations, or someone else's revelations or whatever, perhaps recorded in various old or new scriptures.

        Having no compelling evidence, i personally put god beliefs in the same bucket as extraordinary claims that are speculative, absurd, or without any proof, that may be proven one day such as alien abductions, faerie (some do believe in faerie) etc.

        Again, we know at best only one specific god belief and associated dogma could be correct, so virtually all god beliefs must be false. If the mormons are correct then all the rest are wrong.
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        Apr 27 2013: Bernard,

        There could be more than space, time, matter, energy, dark matter and energy etc. or other universes. just no evidence to support these existing, or to understand their nature. So people can speculate all they like, yet believing in any of these as anything more than a possibility seems to indicate a lack of critical thinking or reasonable scepticism imo. Others have their reasons to believe. Often a mix of cultural programming depending on when and where born, as well as more philosophical consideration. No issue if others come to their own conclusions different from mine. I note atheists are in the minority.

        Actually, a vacuum does exist, it takes up space, just no matter. It may contain energy. But i get your point. Perhaps considering non existence as a concept makes the point clearer.

        Suggest considering different categories of existence e.g.
        Those that are material, matter, or take up space
        Ideas or thoughts or words or feelings - associated with Minds and being produced by brains as best we can tell.

        Just thinking about the edge of the universe blows my brain, or what time is, what matter is, energy etc.

        As above there may be other unproven or undiscovered categories. But at this stage most god concepts seem to exist in the idea sphere in my opinion.

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