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 28 2013: Glad to hear from you Mike,

    You see design and God , I don't, I see plain 'ole nature. You keep saying that nature is too complex to have "just happened" You see plan & design from end to end by God then all makes sense. And I say again I respect that.

    Let's grant that the Universe was designed by God, then I ask: What is God? What or who designed it? ( I hope that you can parse from the multiplicity of Gods available) . Please do not render the question irrelevant for I think we may fall short of the understanding that the God answer would provide, otherwise we are left with an unexplained being to explain the origins of the universe.The new question(s) raised by the God explanation are as problematic as the question which the explanation purports to answer.
    Science can provide plausible, purely natural scenarios based in well-established cosmological theories that show how our universe may have arisen out of an initial state of nothingness ( there is no "just happened"). And once again just because nature is complex does not means by default that there is a creator ( science has to work a little bit harder than that). Inconsistencies are not necessarily unresolvable and I'm not going into the babble or the flimflam of the inconsistency of the dataset. But what I must tell you Mike is that there is people working hard to solve those inconsistencies and if you look back at let's say the last 100 years of work, see the results. God is not an explanation (to me at least) because is not tied to any objective evidence. In the explaining game cosmologists are far out in front.

    By the way the BBT knows quite a deal more than jut "barely" down to the Planck time unit.

    "Where am I ? Who am I ?How did I come to be here? What is this thing call the world? How did I come into the World? Why was I not consulted? And if I am compelled to take part in it? Where is the Director? I want to see him"
    S. Kierkegaard

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      Apr 28 2013: Hello Carlos Marquez,
      Did you get my message concerning "The Psychology of Religion / "God(s)" ?"
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        Apr 28 2013: Bernard,
        What are we? animated molecular structures, that came alive one day in the past when molecules acquired the ability to become animated? Nah, I'm not going to thermodynamically argue that now.
        Did God created humans? Did Humans created God? Look at this: if you look at the laundry list of Gods & Goddesses by culture you will find that by the invention of writing(think about before writing) by the Sumerians (6K years ago) historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities. and this are conservatives numbers since no dataset is available before 4000 BC. Or Hindu Gods.
        If we stick to Christian-ism or better" Christianities", there are globally about 33,820 denominations with about 3,445,000 congregations churches and about 1,888 million Christians.
        Not all of them are right
        All of them are wrong
        One sect is right
        How to parse this issue? Is beyond me because the nature of the "thing " that needs to defined , measured is not in this natural world.
        Repeat the exercise for all remainder religions.
        Religion has been around for a long time, thus is safe to say that is meeting a human need(s).
        Is it a cohesion tool for specific cultures? Shemmer says we are "pattern seeking myth makers"
        I think that is mankind's attempt to make sense of the world around us, the things we cannot control, pain, suffering, death, life etc. Perhaps as we evolve we will learn to understand nature better,mankind will learn to let go of religion, ie must of us agree that the Earth is not flat, that the Sun is a Star at the center of our solar system, and that an odd man named Einstein did something with energy (wow big steps!)
        Science is abstract, full of mathematical expressions and most people would care not to understand it. But sure do enjoy its benefits (and perils).

        Our mind we are chained by, it liberated by it,
        the meanest tool available to man and with no manual.

        Thank you for the opportunity Bernard!

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          Apr 28 2013: Or as once someone told me they could all be different perspectives of the same "essence" (gained from experience of this "essence", which I don't view is a very good argument but this is a separate matter!), all of which could be true.
          Or the "God(s)" could change, why can't they be like humans at all, and have the ability to change their personality?
          I view that the psychology of religion / "God(s)" doesn't prove nor disprove God, only raises more question like :

          - Why can't certain animals experience God due to them not having the cognitive abilities we have! (Specifically the "Theory of Mind".)

          - Children under the age of two, can't really believe in a God. At least age and belief are strongly correlated, which raises some questions.

          - Look up the "God Helmet", you can force the "God experience" on people. And it was found that 10% (might be 20%) can't have this "God experience". Which ironically included Richard Dawkins.
          Watch :

          So yes, the psychology of religion / "God(s)" does raise more questions then answer about the concept of "God(s)".
          Whether there is existence of such a "Deity" I do not know, and don't think I ever will.

          Kind regards,
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          Apr 29 2013: Hi Bernard, seems like a whole set of related speculation.
          Like different forms of astrology, or paranormal categories.
          Its like saying it is magic, and then adding layers of detail, with no compelling evidence, relying on unreliable processes or unsubstantiated revelation and authority.

          Would you agree that the prevelance of belief in unseen agencies, natural spirits, gods and goddesses is not actually proof of there being unseen agents. I would go further and suggest where ever we gain an understanding of mechanisms, that reliably predict outcomes, no agency is required, just natural forces and processes.

          If these beliefs are based on stuff outside reality we can test or examine, if god concepts are not subject to time, space, forces, then the different beliefs possible are only limited by imagination.

          All the different forms of astrology are not evidence for astrology being correct. Only evidence would prove astrology, ideally examined scientifically, to avoid cognitive bias.

          I suggest the prevelance of religion and astrology points to something about human nature, rather than being proof of the supernatural. Just proof of supernatural beliefs.
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      Apr 28 2013: So Carlos,
      You hit me with Kierkegaard and attribute all this to old nature, but are unsure of God (let me say again, I use the word God as the best accommodation of all the words and phrases of: Supreme Being, Mother Nature, the 5th Universal Force, Intelligent Designer, etc. ad nauseam.)

      I have also said there are two conversations going on here. One where we speak of the universe and it's beginnings and the other which addresses matters of faith held by a vast majority of the world's peoples. I can't address how people say they believe or feel in their inter beings. It is not measurable by any means. So, if Frances I tells me he believes in God and attributes great and wondrous things to God, who am I to dispute him. More so, who are you?

      What I have consistently said in this conversation, is that some.... packed into that little ball of stuff that later exploded into the big bang was all the "plans, drawings and specifications" (pardon my engineering background) that was to become the known universe. Of Course, I have been chided because "none of this can be proven or, etc.,etc. " That is all true, but let me ponder one thing at a time? How did some.... get all that info into the little ball and not have it destroyed in the explosion, now that is a problem to solve...
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        Apr 29 2013: How did god make the stuff and pack it into a little ball?

        How did god get there in the first place?

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