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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 23 2013: If I understand you correctly, you would like to use the" Scienfic Method" to deal with this popular question. The problem is going to be , that as you suggest, "God" doesn't have an agreed on meaning that is specific enough to be able to design any experiemts.
    That doesn't reallly matter, though., bacause in Science it is a valid procedure to produce a "Theory", which can answer, or bypass, questions. It is a matter of dealing satisfactorily and consistently , at least potentially, with any deal killing questions., even in the absence of any decisive experiement at the moment.
    You no doubt aware of all the contradictory, inconsistent beliefs of most religions. The popular ones, Judeo-Christian-Moslem-Agnostics all share a pretty much similar view of how the Universe is laid out, what Human nature is like, etc. Basically, the Hindus and Buddhists have a radically different concept, but it is overlaid with centuries of ritualistic practices which obscure its science friendly premises. Alan Watts, an ex Anglican priest, did an excellent job of getting down to basics.about this. Science has evolved to a belief that the basic elements of our world, are energy, cycles, Fields of Force, and conservation Laws. Even Newtonians were aware that "things" were illusions based on "atoms", now we find out that even atoms are constructs of other non-stuff. Electromagnetism, and the other Forces are in the form of "Fields". My guess is that "Consciousness " will turn out to be yet another" Field". It would probably not shock a Buddhist or Hindu, since it woud fit in with their beliefs, but it would be a total killer for the other religions, which require an all powerful puppeteer, in the mode of Ancient Kings, entirely separate from the Peons (us) The Field, if identified with "God" would imply that Groups have a reality beyond collections of illusory "Individuals", and furthermore, that WE are indistinguishable from God in that sense. Super heresy.
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      Apr 24 2013: Hello Shawn Disney, Nice too meet you! :D
      I'm surprised you put "Agnostics" in that same category. I would probably label myself an "Strong (/ strict) agnostic".
      However, I do not know much about Hinduism. What do they teach? :)
      • Apr 24 2013: Hi Bernard White:
        Always a pleasure to talk to someone who is interested in getting beyond "what everyone knows". The reason I would lump the Agnostics in with the others is that they seem to share so many basic , unquestioned assumptions about our Universe, and seem to agree that there is not much alternative. The assumptions being, for one, there is either "God" , or "Not-God". In a Universe, more or less Newtonian in structure, which was either arranged by a conscious , rational, even personal, sort of being, much like an
        Ancient King. Or , alternatively,, the "God" is not there, but there is a mechanistic, scientific sort of structure that we all inhabit, as "individuals", born without knowing where we are , or what is going on anyway, and we gradually learn by Evolution, family life, etc. who we are, and how we should behave. As to "purposes" , life spans, etc. that is still a mystery, but there are a lot of contradictory sayings and customs which purport to answer insoluble conundrums, such as "God's Love", or the "Afterlife", etc. None of it very satisfactory.
        Buddhism is derived from Hinduism, and they are both quite contrary to the modern World View, at first sight. Buddhism , being younger, has less accumulated , Culture -specific rituals, etc. Both are quite scientific and modern in spirit, since they focus on "experience" , unlike the other "Religions". It is probably accurate to say that neither of these is really a "Religion", since they are not concerned with "Salvation", Sin, Evil, Afterllife. Souls, etc.which the others assume as "Real". There seems no conflict with the basic setup to say that it is consistent with Buddhism to believe that "Consciousness Potential", in the form of a universal Force Field, analogous to Electricity, is the Source of "Individuals". and Groups as well, but they are Constructs, and not basic elements. Just as "atoms" are. I'm running out of space. See Alan Watts , "the Book" for a better explanation
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          Apr 24 2013: Hello! (Again). :)
          I wouldn't say that there is or isn't a God at all!
          If anything I came up with this 8 answer model :

          1. I know there is...
          2. I believe it is most probable there is...
          3. I do not know at this present moment, not to say that I will not know one day...
          4. I will never know....
          5. I do not know, for I have not thought about it...
          6. I believe it is most improbable there is...
          7. I know there isn't...


          8. I am just not concerned / Don't care.

          Most people are in the "8" and "5" category from my experience.

          Yet I suppose you could argue I am going towards a more "yes or no" answer scale. What would you suggest is wrong with that? I mean there is the "possibility" that a personal God(s) could spawn into existence at any moment, or die at any moment.

          While if this is true, I have no way of knowing in my present state. (Through scientific method, that is!)

          I like this quote :
          "Life is a mystery to be lived, not a question to be solved".
          However I find it more fulfilling to try and find the answers I can with my finite brain, which can only process (and store) so much information.
          I am an agnostic with regards as to whether my life is finite (I just die) or infinite (There is a form of after-life, or reincarnation).
          I accept that there may not be a "one universal answer / meaning to life", I accept there could be "many meaning(s) to life!".

          I have no grudge towards any religion, if anything admire them in a odd form. For (most) religions encourage a sense of community, altruistic (+ empathy towards your fellow man) deeds, and a sense awe towards the universe.

          I hope you enjoyed my reply.
          Kind regards (again! :P),

          EDIT : However! I must admit, I do find the concept of a personal "God(s)" can be explained quite nicely as a "Cognitive illusion", read my other comments about this matter. I find the concept of God, can be reduced to the "Theory of mind", and "“artificialism” (or "promiscuous teleology".)

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