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 30 2013: Kahneman's prospect theory, which won a nobel prize, was gained from a social science.
      Martin Seligman was a "Social scientist".
      Dan Ariely, to some extent, was a "Social Scientist".
      Philip Zimardo was a "Social Scientist".
      The list can go on.
      For example, skinner's box taught us reinforcement schedules and operant conditioning reliably shape behavior.
      Or about the placebo effect.
      All this has been found from observational or experimental testing. And can easily be duplicated.

      Is he basically saying the whole of psychology, behavioural economics, sociology are all "Pseudo sciences"?.

      EDIT : However he was willing to admit he was wrong. :-)
      I mean if you take this link "RSA Animate - The Truth About Dishonesty" : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBmJay_qdNc). That knowledge was gained from a social science.
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          Apr 30 2013: What is a law in science?
          I apologize for my lack of knowledge! :-)
          For from my own research (done when I find the time to) it does seem there are things in psychology which have become "theories".
          I find psychology also a worthwhile subject to research in my free-time. Which has taught me things I never could have imagined. (E.G Synthetic happiness).
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          Apr 30 2013: I mean I think a question which could sort it out, is do you view (that to a certain extent) sociology, geography, economic, and psychology are all "sciences".
          And is Neuroscience more of a science than psychology?
          I mean psychology is certainly not a "Pseudo Science", considering the amount of verified repeatable conclusions (/theories) it has gained.
          Yet at the end of the day, I don't feel I am qualified to answer. Due to me only really studying psychology in my free-time.
          And I may have some biases of-course, considering it is the only science I really consider myself "Good" at. :P
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        Apr 30 2013: Bernie, I got to go with Don. Just because it ends in "ology" doesn't make it a hard science. You know, it's hard to add it up or put it in a test tube. And too often, when tests are replicated, they answer in statistical averages never all or 100%. I hold low esteem for computer generated models. I have dealt with computers for over 50 years, they are nothing but big dumb adding machines and no better then the weenie who entered the numbers to start with. I put all this up there with those that tell me they are smarter then me and I should believe what they tell. me. I hope I am smart enough to recognize those who are smarter then me without being told.
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          Apr 30 2013: So is maths a requirement to be for something to be a "hard science"?
          (Because discoveries like Kahneman's prospect theory, have won nobel prizes! And are very mathematical.)
          Because I do believe that certain experiments in psychology (e.g (found by B.F Skinner.) operant conditioning, and (found by Ivan Pavlov) classical conditioning or (Stanley Milligrams) Obedience experiment) do produce repeatable verifying results.
          And sometimes end up being quite statistical...
          However I may be wrong! :(
          (Read my comment to Don Wesley!) :-)
    • Apr 30 2013: back when Feynman was still alive social science was as he describes it... nowadays (mainly due to Zimbardo and Millgram) as well as the research on game theory by Nash and the inclusion of correct statistics the existence rights of social sciences are growing.

      The main problem that social sciences have is that you can't prove causality. You can only show correlation. In the clasical sciences (math / physics / chemistry) one can, usually, show causality. Or at least make correct predictions based on the assumption of causality.

      Also you cannot control all variables in a social study because you simply can't control all people's lives in a statistical relevant way for a simple study. But math (statistics) have shown us how we can, more or less, eliminate these effects.

      Anyway.... I'm a big feynman fan but the sciences do continue to evolve. And I would say that the studies did provide a valuable increase in knowledge.

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