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: Richard and all of like mind

    My point is that if there is no "God", no design, no plan, no reason... the universe just happened makes no sense to me, in fact given the timeline that we all agree upon, it is impossible through any manner of random selection.

    So, why does it have to make sense? Why not?
    Why must nature have a reason? Why must God have a reason?

    All I have ever said is there was God, He set off the big bang... it makes a lot more sense then " I don't know, it just happened!"
    Is that really the best response that can be offered? "I don't know what happened, but you're wrong"!

    Would it cause you to burst into flames to say, "I don't believe (as a matter of faith in) God that He created the universe as we know it, but it is a better answer then the Universe just happened.

    PS... I read physics books. All I learned was they didn't know much more then me, but they were ignorant in much greater detail and had the math to prove it.
    • Apr 28 2013: Interresting choice of words you have there "Would it cause you to burst into flames to say,".
      Because the church often used this argument (burning in hell for your actions) to control people.

      But to get back on topic....
      I don't see any logical way to make a distinction between "God created the universe" and "it just happened". In one case it's a concious act... and in the other it's a natural event.
      But logically you can just put the question of "how did God come into existence" as the same question as "how did the universe come into existence"... and what is even worse... you can use the same answers to that for both.
      Scientists just like to be precise and therefor can't yet tell for sure.

      But that I do not yet know why the (imho) natural event occured is no reason to use some ancient book filled with errors used for power and influence by some pretty evil people to tell me how I should live.

      I can accept that the idea for a god... because I can also accept that I am a brain in a vat. But simply because I have no way of telling I am not going to believe in some magic.

      I will believe that science can eventually show (beyond reasonable doubt) that the universe is a natural physical process. Simply because all evidence I've seen in my life points towards that conclusion.

      If you want to believe some other story and be at the mercy of some entity.... you're free to do so.
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      Apr 28 2013: Mike,
      God is not a "better" answer because it does not answers anything. Actually God makes the situation worse now it needs to be explained.
      Look Mike God and faith come as an inseparable pair , and you are using a prime mover argument( you are defaulting God's existence, but which?) without first defining it, then you jump into an argument from ignorance( not calling you ignorant, ok?) & God of the gaps. It is way too much baggage to fly coach or first class.
      Look around you most of the people that does science for a living refute the God idea as a solution to explain anything ( and there is no conspiracy against God). Now if it's a matter of what satisfies you and you find psychics answers messy and ugly, OK I get the dissonance, and you find consonance in God.- Good.

      But I don't , and I'm wearing flame retarding clothing and a little tank of halon on the side for added measure!

      OK, If you read and understood those physics books throughly and you concluded that the authors didn't know more that you do, minus the math then Mike, I am impatiently waiting to read your book.

      "There is not one jot of evidence for cosmic purpose.
      It's a reverse engineering of the quest for God"
      -P Atkins

      “The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know
      suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.”
      -Bertrand Russell


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      Apr 29 2013: Hi mike as others have stated, your discomfort with a universe without a creator god is not proof for the existence of such.

      I also find it odd you can accept something unexplained, with no compelling evidence as a satisfactory gap filler or alternative to natural forces. But that is your choice. we can all have different opinions. While I think invoking magical agency may limit exploration or investigation, it is often benign. I only worry when supernatural (or any) beliefs lead to demonstrable harm.

      You seem to miss the point that asserting a god caused the big bang or what science has proven, ignores the questions how did a god cause the Big bang. What is a god that does not exist in the universe, where did it come from, why is there no evidence of its existence, and if there is no evidence, why believe in it?

      How do you know humans were part of gods plan. at least as likely we were accidents after it set off the big bang.

      Why does the existence of a god give the universe more meaning? Why does the god exist. It is arbitrary. Why did god masks the universe, and why make it the way it is. Why not create spirits in a spiritual realm. Why the pain, suffering, the struggle to survive. Theists sometimes invent contradictory explanations with no supporting evidence. But then why there is another level of why questions.

      I personally prefer not to speculate this way. I am comfortable with the reality we reasonably know and understand, that while we are not part of a gods plan, we exist, and can find meaning in our lives without supernatural speculation.

      No issue if you prefer supernatural speculation and feel that is a better answer, while I see it as raising even more questions.

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