TED Conversations

Bernard White


This conversation is closed.

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),

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Apr 27 2013: Summing up some comments lost below.

    Some posit a god exists to explain and give meaning to life and the universe.

    Yet this god is unexplained and there is no meaning to its existence. It just is.

    For some reason an unexplained universe is something they are uncomfortable with.
    But they are comfortable with an unexplained universe creator.

    They cant accept the universe is the way it is without agency, but they can a universe creator the way it is without further agency.


    Perhaps it is harder to accept you don't understand and can not explain the existence of the universe, what we can see and touch, to not , than to accept you don't understand and can not explain something that is invisible, intangible and to all practical purposes non existent.
    • Apr 27 2013: hmmm your replies are better than your summaries :(

      How do you think that a line which sais:
      "Some posit a god exists to explain and give *meaning* to life and the universe."
      can be logically followed by the line:
      "Yet this god is unexplained and there is no *meaning* to its existence. It just is."

      If God gives meaning to their lifes.... how can this god itself have no meaning?
      Isn't ithe meaning of such a god to 'trick people into believing that their life has meaning'?
      (I believe that through personal growth someone can gain meaning in their life btw)

      Also one could argue if God actually is unexaplained... because religious people tend to think there is enough evidence for his existence.

      I'm not saying that I disagree with your views.... I'm just saying that you are not really understanding the religious point of view if you summarize, a part of, the debate like this.
      • thumb
        Apr 28 2013: Hi Richard, re god being unexplained, I mean why or how did this god come to exist.

        These are the same questions about the universe theists ask, and answer with god.

        We reasonably know their universe exists. Its another point to look at what evidence there is for a god, other than the universe needs a cause.
        • Apr 28 2013: I know what you mean... and I agree.

          But it's not what's written in the summary post :)
          Or well... it might be written there but it's too ambiguous/vague for the reader.
      • thumb
        Apr 29 2013: Apologies for any vagueness.

        I understand believing you are created gives some the impression of meaning. utility from a belief is not proof the belief is correct.

        Personally I find an existence at the whim of a god, just as arbitrary as existing via natural processes. For me a god having some arbitrary plan for me, plodding me in this terrible and beautiful life and universe provides no more meaning than I can find myself without a god.

        Of course this is assuming a universe creator god had humans, and me in mind. A less speculative god concept is that an agency created the universe without humans being the central focus. Assuming the universe was created for us, billions of galaxies, with billions of stars, is nearly absurd, but so human.

        But why does god exist. What is the meaning of gods existence.

        Isn't gods existence without some agency causing it just as arbitrary as the universe existing without agency.
    • thumb
      Apr 27 2013: Some, I can imagine, would argue that this God meaning would be to give other people meaning.
      It's creation can be argued quite easily, it just requires a little bit of imagination :
      - God is all powerful
      - God can travel in time, if all powerful.
      - Therefore God could create it self with the use of time travel.
      - God is an eternal time-loop.
      There that's the creation of God sorted out.
      Yet whether "God" exists I do not know.
      EDIT : Of-course, as mentioned depending on your definition of "God(s)" + "Existence."
      I thought of an amusing logical tautology yesterday :
      Existence=All that has material property (energy or mass)
      God=A being which doesn't have any material property.
      Therefore God = outside existence. Therefore God does not exist, under that definition of existence.
      • thumb
        Apr 29 2013: I get it. Imagining a magical agent, designed to be capable of designing universes works for many.

        Humans seem to have evolved to assume or prefer agency as an explanation for the unexplained or things difficult grasp. The scientific process helps address this bias to find the explanations based on evidence not instinctive intuition.

        As discussed, and when examined critically assuming an unexplained magical agent impervious to any examination, unbounded, offers very little for me.

        Here's a universe. Now lets imagine a universe creator. It has to be smart and powerful. It has to exist outside of the universe, outside of time and space that come I to being with the universe. Now don't stop to think what it actually means to be outside time and space, keep it vague. Easy. And it has the benefit of being defined as something that can not be tested, which is consistent there being no physical evidence for its existence.

        I don't really understand gravity. Let's imagine invisible beings everywhere pulling matter towards other matter. Now they are made of magic stuff you can not detect.

        We can invoke immaterial (whatever that is) beings capable of delivering anything you want, and by their very definition, there is no evidence they exit.

        Personally, considering these constructs critically, they could be correct, but being able to conceptualise a magical solution is not evidence. I see no reason to assume they do exist. I guess I'm not predisposed to gods existing as much as many others.
      • thumb
        Apr 29 2013: I guess it may have unconsciously created the universe. Our universe may be a sort of dream by a transcendent entity. Is that what you meant? Or the god may have triggered the universe by accident?

        Maybe the creator god is not that powerful. Maybe it just gave a small nudge in the right direction sparking a chain reaction.

        Maybe it is dumb and not that powerful and blindly or mistakenly set off the big bang.

        Given it is completely without evidence, there are many possibilities.

        I guess powerful and smart gives god believers more options to speculate with. E.g. being smart enough to decide what is good and , or to plan everything out, or to know the future etc.

        Our future is probably evolution into something that can not reproduce with current humanm s, or genetic manipulation into something else to stop aging, perhaps most likely extinction at some stage.

        I guess smart and powerful are relative. This god might be smart or powerful compared to us. But it might be like a speck of dust to the mega god one layer above the transcendent that created our god.

        The mega god in the mega transcendent reality is watching what we call god in the transcendent reality, and also our level of reality.

        There could be no end of layers of reality. Why stop at the first layer of transcendent reality where our universes creator god resides. The god realm could have its own mega gods and uber transcendent reality above it.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.