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 27 2013: Oh dear...
    The end is coming soon to this debate.
    Any last words from anybody? (Or comments they have been dying to make!) :)
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      Apr 29 2013: Hi Bernard, there seems to be general agreement that most god concepts are outside the realm of what we can test scientifically.

      The closest we can get seems to be showing brain activity while praying meditating on a god concept. Even then, the transcendent connection (whatever transcendent means) is something we can not detect. It could just be natural brain activity interpreted as some connection or communication with a god concept. Or it could be something more.

      Most the evidence for god comes down to this type of subjective experience or arguments. The latter is not evidence really e.g.
      A gap filler for explaining life and the universe via an unexplained entity that is often defined as all knowing and powerful, and therefore is conceptually capable of being responsible for anything you can imagine. This is discussed in more detail here, but basically several have pointed out the circular reasoning, fallacies, and lack of explanatory power in claiming an unexplained magic being did it by magic.

      Others don't like idea that morality is something humans have to figure out for themselves and prefer divine command, which is arbitrary, and defined as good, no matter what.

      Others point to miracles such as the Quran and ressurection. Just taking the latter there is no compelling evidence it happened, but lets assume jesus ressurected himself, why doies that prove he is the creator of the universe, or that therre is a creatior. It is only evidence of ressurection. While impressive, i suggest universe creation is many orders of magnitude more difficult than healing and reanimating one man. It is a fallacy to assert resurrection proves a creator god exists.

      I could go on. Some seem to accept these arguments or subjective personal experience, but it seems speculative or fallacious to me, and that is perhaps where faith comes in, and perhaps our unreliable intuition cognition, hyperactive agency assumption, and cultural programming.
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      Apr 29 2013: I forgot to add while most current god concepts involve untestible concepts, if they make claims about a god acting on material reality we may be able to test for evidence of this.

      For example, if it is claimed a god drowned as army in the red sea, we might look for evidence of this. Some paranormal claims can be tested under controlled conditions. If we found evidence of our current understanding of natural laws being broken, such as a christian healer healing amputated limbs, then we would have evidence of something worth furthest consideration.

      Sometimes physical evidence is contrary to the claims, so the science is rejected by the believer, or an omni god is invoked to explain descrepencies.

      I'm interested in what people who are reasonably sceptical would accept as evidence of something deserving of being called a god, or even a god capable of creating universes. Maybe the next topic.

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