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God, Knowing, and Agnosticism - food 4 thought :-)(23 posts)

God, Knowing, and Agnosticism - food 4 thought :-)jose_Tex_mex
Jul 18, 2002 10:29 AM
The comments I have seem from some of the agnostics on this board have been, IMHO, well thought out, not combative, and sincere in their nature. With that in mind I post this thread.

It appears to me that agnostics do not believe in God because of knowability - you cannot prove God exists. However, what do we know in the most accurate form of diction. My point herein is that there's a bit of faith in everything you do in life as nothing is knowable. When one has a bit of faith great things can be accomplished. On the contrapositive, where would we be if we ignored everything we could not prove?

Suppose, I were to apply the same rationale to Mathematics and Computers - where would we be? At the very heart of these subjects are 1's and 0's. Can you show me what zero is? Can you prove zero? How about 1? What is one? Is anything truly indivisible, like the Greeks called atomos? Can you show 1+1=2? Isn't 1 different than 1.0 or 1.000000(On To Infinity). Obviously we cannot write OTI. However, I will agree that 1 and 1.00 OTI are EQUIVALENT. Again, if I question the primitive concepts of science, mathematics, or computers in the same way agnostics question God, things quickly fall apart. Lesson learned, a little faith (or credulity) goes along way.

As for Physics, I believe that F=ma. However, I could question at nauseum what Force is (how weak is a definition of a push or a pull?) or what mass is? Really, what is mass? As noted before: in an atom 99.9% of the mass lies in the nucleus which is surrounded by an electron zipping around in a sphere. If the nucleus were the size of a golf ball the outer shell of the atom would be a big ball with a diameter of 6 miles!!! Thus, nearly 100% of our reality (volume wise) is nothing! If we go subatomic and get to quarks, muons, gluons, leptons, blah, blah, blah things get even weirder. Can I know F=ma - No. However, a bit of faith in the equation can put rockets on the moon!

Finally, although I may disagree with others, I do not have a problem with someone who lays down a criteria and then applies a method to determine their belief system - this is a lot like the scientific method. However, in practice I see many people picking and choosing when it comes to God & life and how they apply their methodology. I just think when it comes to knowing there are things with which we are comfortable and things we are not. Our comfot zone should not be the determining factor when it comes to an important issue such as God.

Best of Luck - at the very least I hope I made your day go by a bit quicker.
re: God, Knowing, and Agnosticism - food 4 thought :-)Sintesi
Jul 18, 2002 11:17 AM
Ultimate knowledge is impossible, ultimate surety is impossible. The one thing about science and mathematics is that it works and is predictable. There is nothing in the absence of an Ultimate knowledge of God that leads you to believe God exists - you can't show me what God does or will do. You can tell me what you personally think about it, but you can't demonstrate God's works. You can't plug God into a physics or math problem and predict its outcome, however with scientifically measurable entities or logically provable concepts you can.

Regardless of whether you know or even can know how a computer works it still works. Ask it a question and look at the answer. God though, you can't demonstate whether God has done anything, or will do anything, or not.
re: God, Knowing, and Agnosticism - food 4 thought :-)jose_Tex_mex
Jul 18, 2002 5:11 PM
Hey Sintesi,
Again, I feel the need to pre-empt my thread by ensuring I do not come off as arrogant, snobby, ... So here goes, I'll reply wrt lines.

The one thing about science and mathematics is that it works and is predictable
This statement is kind of psuedo-scientific IMHO. "It works" and "is predictable" sounds like there is a very definite outcome - not true with science or math. There may be a probable outcome based upon agreed constraints which colloquially prove science via science but this at best is circular. A scientific proofs shows more that you have followed the rules, dotted your i's, and crossed your T's than much more.

There is nothing in the absence of an Ultimate knowledge of God that leads you to believe God exists.
You cannot make this statement without there being a God and then there not being a God. In the same way I cannot prove God exists you cannot prove a lack of existence. I could say God does alot - life, energy, and light. Others would argue differently. I would quickly ask what is life? Where does energy come from. What is light? Some would have pretty good explanations but none complete or beyond reproach from me. So where does this leave us.

but you can't demonstrate God's works
As for God's works, I contend they are all around us. If one chooses to define all that science can "kind of" explain as "not God" than that's your choice. It does not mean that you are correct. Are science and God mutually exclusive? Perhaps, there are no miracles. Perhaps, miracles are so common we take them for granted in much the same way you take for granted things fall down.

you can't show me what God does or will do
I cannot show anyone what you do or will do. Is this proof you do not exist?

You can't plug God into a physics or math problem and predict its outcome
The equation represents a probable outcome of many which may occur based upon concepts we already have agreed upon!!! Again, this is crucial, since we cannot agree upon God we'll continue to chase our tails. If I did not agree upon your equation there would be no outcome.

As for equations, come on! Our equations are so basic. What you are saying is that science is able to look at a small isolated incident, represent it as an equation, plug in numbers, and balance an equation. Equations can "prove" themselves but don't prove anything else. Even the most advanced super equations neglect a tremendous amount of variables. Equations are by their nature extremely constrained because it's just too difficult to get one that fits in the real world. Can these equations constrain God? The equations normally tell us what we already know.

however with scientifically measurable entities or logically provable concepts you can
No, nothing can be measured absolutely. If you could you would have to contradict Einstein (cannot achieve absolute non motion between two reference frames - ruler vs object). Since the ruler would be in an accelerated reference frame it undergoes length contraction and a meter is no longer a meter.

As for the computer, I have a PC. I would be an extremely happy camper if it ever worked or gave me answers. Although, one might argue that if God exists there would be only Macs and no PC's...
re: God, Knowing, and Agnosticism - food 4 thought :-)Sintesi
Jul 19, 2002 12:23 PM
Don't find you or your questions arrogant at all. I always enjoy this kind of discussion.

"This statement is kind of psuedo-scientific IMHO. "It works" and "is predictable" sounds like there is a very definite outcome - not true with science or math. There may be a probable outcome based upon agreed constraints which colloquially prove science via science but this at best is circular."

"pseudo" is my middle name. : )
You would agree that a car runs on scientific principles, right? It's not "magical." When you turn the key the engine turns over and off you go. You could not construct a car that works without physics. If you understand how electricity operates, how gas combusts, etc... you can begin to construct a device that works employing these principles because they have a predictive outcome - they obey laws. This is a hallmark of science and what I mean when talking about predictability. If the car fails to start, then you assume there is a reason, i.e. no gas, electrical short, etc... You don't assume that natural laws suddenly stopped working.

"As for God's works, I contend they are all around us. If one chooses to define all that science can "kind of" explain as "not God" than that's your choice."

I agree it is a choice and one is no better than the other (here's my kicker) WHEN you talk about ultimate causes, ultimate beginnings and so on. Science says absolutely nothing about God or the absolute origin of the universe because it can't, it needs testable evidence and there is none. But science is great at describing how natural phenomena works in the here and now. When I throw a ball and it falls to the earth, is this a miracle? I mean, did God lift my arm and cause my fingers to release the ball, magically levitate the ball and then rest it on the earth? Or is the explanation that my muscles exerted force upon the ball, causing it to fly through the air, when gravity then acted upon it and then brang (brung?) it to the earth. The entire action ruled by physical laws not needing divine intervention. Which seems to be the proper explanation? Most people find the first description absurd.

Whether these are natural laws designed by God or not is the unanswerable question, but science prooves irrefutably these laws do exist. Science is mute on the subject of ethics, the meanings behind laws, etc... It merely states that they exist and describe their workings.

Let me ask you this: Can God make 2 + 2 = 6? I would say no God can't, even God has to obey logic. Same with natural law.

Quantum level stuff, now that's the weird stuff where you can start slipping in unpredictabilty and probability. Won't go into it cause I can't.

Another thing: You can say God caused this and created that, right? But can't I, with equivalent proof, also claim the universe was created by a magical mouse named Sammy. You can call that absurd but you can no more prove that false than I can prove God false.

That's how my simple mind sees it anyway, Jose.
We're all simple minded...jose_Tex_mex
Jul 19, 2002 3:19 PM
I think we are mostly in agreement, we just have two different outcomes. I really did not "get" quantum mechanics either. I did take a class, however, my math skills really were just not up to par. Thus, I am no expert and only offer my piece of the pie.

I like your Sammy the mouse analogy. I would say that there's a lot of reliable historical documentation to backup my point. However, if we wrote a book about Sammy's adventures and it lasted a few thousand years, would my ancestors believe in Sammy? Who knows.

I think the most I am trying to say is that one should clearly write out and define their guiding principles and/or criteria for life. Seriously, actually write it down. Sometimes actually seeing the words can help you realize other potentials or silly-ness that might have gone astray.

Take these principles and apply them to everything or decide where they can and cannot be applied. Perhaps, science is a square peg and God is a round hole.

Lastly, I don't think people come to God via science. My faith is very simple - so simple I don't understand it. I think the whole make yourselves as children thing really is key here. In my personal experience faith has helped immensely.

Till next time best of luck and thanks for the great feedback. I might do a century (and a quarter) tomorrow so it's time for bed - hope you get out as well...
logic, evidence, and proofDougSloan
Jul 18, 2002 1:13 PM
Logic is using rules to structure arguments. If you don't follow the rules, then your argument is invalid. Often, what seems like a "reasonable" argument is invalid in logical terms.

An example of a valid argument: "All bicycles have wheels; this is a bicycle; therefore, it has wheels."

However, invalid: "All bicycles have wheels; this thing has wheels; therefore this is a bicycle." Nonetheless, the statement *could* be correct. You may or may not have a bicycle, if it has wheels.

"Evidence" is some fact that allows us to reach a conclusion about something. Evidence and "proof" are closely related, but not the same. Finding two wheels on a machine is "evidence" that it's a bicycle, but not proof. Finding a machine that has a double diamond frame, two wheels, handlebars, etc., in that can be ridden by a human, is "proof" that it's a bicycle. In other words, it fits our definition, and it cannot be anything else. "Proof" means we have all the evidence we need to accept something as true.

Now to your issue, in context of logic, evidence, and proof.

Does God exist?

First, can we even construct a valid argument (syllogism) that God exist? This issue will tell us something.

You may offer: "The universe cannot exist unless created by God; the universe exists; therefore God exists."

This is a tautology. The argument itself is constructed so that it *must* be true, as it really is simply a repition of the same idea, that is, that only God can create a universe. Since we *know* the universe exists, the argument requires us to conclude that God exists. Not a valid argument.

However, a reasonable argument might be: "Some things in our universe (e.g., creation) cannot be explained by any method we have available; we acknowledge that God is one possible explanation for creation; the fact of creation is *evidence* that God created it; however, we have no proof, because we do not have all the evidence required to exclude other causes."

This is about all we can say. Essentially, we know that the wheels exist, but we don't have proof.

Now, that is not to say that we don't have proof of anything else. I can, indeed, prove that 1+1=2. We have defined 1 as a single, countable thing. I can count 1 apple. If I then acquire another apple, within the rules of the mathematical system we have devised, I can certainly now either prove mathematically or by counting them that I have 2 apples. I can "prove" it, as I have all the evidence that is necessary determine it and exclude other possibilities.

I realize I could do a better job of presenting this, particular some of the logical fallacies, but nonetheless I think the point is probably coming across: there are some things that can be logically proven, there are some things that cannot be proven with defective logic, and there are somethings that we have evidence of, but no "proof."

Now I ask this: What would you accept as "proof" that God exists? For most people, I'd dare say there is nothing they would accept, for the concept is far too difficult to get a handle on, that is, what evidence would be sufficent to conclude God exists and eliminate what we have from being anything else?

Suppose you met a person who claimed to be God. The person could do things, for which you have absolutely no explanation for how they can be done -- "miracles." I suppose walking on (unfrozen) water would be an example. In your mind you argue, "people cannot walk on water; this person walked on water; therefore, this is not a person," which is a valid argument. However, to conclude that this person is God, you must also equate "God" with "everything not human that appears to be human, but can walk on water." So, again, you have evidence, but not proof.

The fallacy of concluding that God is one who performs miracles (actions we cannot understand by any other means) is that sometimes we are fooled or just don't understand. Are magicians God? If a per
cut offDougSloan
Jul 18, 2002 1:14 PM
...If a person had fallen by parachute into your back yard, and you'd never heard of airplane flite or parachutes before, would that be proof of God? You could go on with millions of examples, things that at one time were not understandable, but later become so.

So, if what would it take for anyone to accept the concept of God, particularly a confirmed atheist? I doubt really good miracles would do it, as the atheist would assume that he is just being fooled or doesn't understand some advanced technology. That being the case, that no evidence would ever be accept as "proof", then I'd ask myself, "why even try?" In other words, don't try to prove something that cannot be proven.

So, to some full circle, I think we realize that the concepts of logic, evidence, and proof are vitally important and valid, but not when it comes to an issue like God. We're back to that old notion of faith. Either you believe or you don't. However, don't confuse faith with uncertainty, for they are not the same. While I may be "uncertain" that the earth is round, I accept it as true, as there is certainly evidence that I would accept as proof (send me up in a rocket). Faith is different -- it's the acceptance of something that *cannot* be proven. Altogether different.

Thanks for listening to this weak attempt to make some sense of the subject. I'm tired.

along those lines...what was that quote? something like...ColnagoFE
Jul 18, 2002 1:20 PM
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I think it might have been Arthur C Clarke.
cut offjose_Tex_mex
Jul 18, 2002 8:59 PM
Hey Doug,
I hear you and colloquially agree. However, we are talking about science. Thus, here's my relpy. I hope I do not sound combative as that is not my intention. Thanks for the nourishment - wrt food 4 thought.

First of all I am not trying to "prove" God exists - it is a matter of faith. I am trying to show that everything is a matter of faith or credulity. No matter how impressed we are with probability or the apparent relationships between cause and effect - there's no knowable link. I do take issue with the psuedo scientific arguements that most people put forth.

Q: Logic is using rules to structure arguments...
Logic is a "science" itself and uses inferences and demonstrations. Somewhere along the line we will have to lay down primitive concepts and I will be asked to accept them. If I do not I could easily run you around in circles and nothing will get accomplished. However, if I credulously agree then we can accomplish things. God's existence may be a bit lofty an ideal.

Q: Evidence" is some fact that allows us to reach a conclusion about something
First of all there are no facts. There's a bit of chance in everything. A conclusion is not something definite nor absollute - here's my research and based upon my results I conclude this. The conclusion works well on things we already know. But applying this to God... Not to sound condescending, but this sounds very legal like!

Q: "Proof" means we have all the evidence we need to accept something as true.
This again isn't very scientific, goes more to our comfort zone, and is dependent upon the person. Proving something to the average person can be different than proving it to an expert. I understand what you are trying to do - I am just showing how one can easily question everything.

Q: First, can we even construct a valid argument (syllogism) that God exist? This issue will tell us something.
The word "valid" here bothers me - again are we talking science or is something valid in the acceptable sense? You could construct an "acceptable" arguement that you exist. However, I scientifically take apart any attempt to show you exist. If we cannot show we exist than how can we do it for God. Again, we appear to leave science aside and jump in to our comfort zone by accpeting as fact what we percieve.

Q: Now, that is not to say that we don't have proof of anything else.
I am not sure if I am mis-quoting you here but are you trying to say that you can prove something? I am saying that you cannot prove anything.

Q: I can, indeed, prove that 1+1=2.
I totally disagree. I will try to elaborate further and not put you on the spot by saying "prove it" just yet. Soon you will be showing junior a block and say - this is one. What if junior chops the block in half and says no it isn't Dad - show me one? You should not tell him that one of the pieces is a half because a half is based upon agreement of a whole - an agreement yet to be made. How then do you show one? In reality you cannot. Somewhere along the line junior will accept some arbitrary level of understanding as being one. This does not prove anything. Junior's first attempt at math is as much a matter of faith than anything else. IF, junior gets testy and continues to argue and chop the block please stop him/her at the atomic level - wouldn't want to split that now would we! :-)

Even if I were to say okay, I accept the apple as one I could then say now show it to me mathematically. You would write
I would say what's the difference between 1, 1.0, 1.00, 1.000, and so on. One might say - significant figures. Guess how many figures are considered significant when we are dealing with absolutes? You guessed it - infinity. To "show" me 1+1=2 I would first like to see you write out one with the infinite zeros. Can you do it? Nope. However, if I have faith that the zeros are infinite and that no other number jumps in the
Part IIjose_Tex_mex
Jul 18, 2002 9:00 PM
are infinite and that no other number jumps in there somewhere along the line we can agree that 1 is an equivalent (not equal) representation of the sigularity. Based upon this faith we can define one. Based upon this definition we can then go on to "prove" things. This is all fine and dandy. Years later just don't come back and say prove God exists as some mathematical equation. BTW - my other favorite arguement is to ask someone to draw a line. Can't be done. How can you draw a continuum of points infinetly long yet infinitesimally small?

As for proof God exists I require none. It's kind of like the old saying - "for those who believe no proof is necessary, for those who do not no proof is good enough."

As for meeting someone who said "I am God" I would probably think they were a whacko. They would be contradicting the Torah and the words of Jesus Christ.

A few of your paragraphs show situations where I have no explanation for an event. These paragraphs pretty much leave science aside and concentrate more upon the level of intelligence of the individual, opinions, and their comfort zone. This is one of the problems that I have when discussing the issue. We often start out very scientific - someone plays the old "prove it" game, I throw some Physics their way, they put science aside and start talking about - what would "you" think... That is, they change the rules. Again, that's okay. Just let me know the new constraints and we'll try it that way. Just don't jump back and forth when it suits you. BTW - I am not saying you did this, just saying...

As for the parachute example, does science negate miracles? Just because you "think" you understand it (more like you mind is comfortable with the idea) does not mean it is devoid of God. Are God and science mutually exclusive? If yes, then why look to science to prove God? If no then maybe science is a miracle! I know I felt pretty miraculous after finally understanding some of the stuff I learned in Physics class!

Q: "why even try?" In other words, don't try to prove something that cannot be proven.
AHHHH.... Why even try?!? Do you think Einstein had faith in himself? What if he did not try? What if all the computer geeks said hey, I cannot prove 1 nor know 0, therefore forget this whole computer thing. Take the same idea in to medicine, astronomy, agriculture, mechanics, and the world would be a different place. The whole point is that even though you do not fully understand a little faith can lead you to great things.

Nothing is knowable.

Best of Luck with Junior - Just think how much fun it will be to tow that Burley Baby Buggy!
Jose, Doug...I really enjoyed the logic lessonBikeViking
Jul 19, 2002 2:27 AM
It's always fascinating to read posts like the ones the brain a good kickstart

However, with God boiling down to "faith" (as it always does), how do you know you have it? There have been times when I thought I had it, but I asked myself whether this feeling of faith or was my mind simply wanting it so bad tha it created this feeling of oneness with God? How does a reasoned person discern between the two possibilities?

That's why I am an agnostic, I am willing to say that God is possible, but I cannot/will not make the leap to faith. I think I really tried, but it just never clicked.

'the heart cannot worship what the mind rejects'weiwentg
Jul 19, 2002 4:54 AM
Bishop John Shelby Spong.
I wonder, why couldn't you make that leap of faith? I ask because currently, having seen some convincing evidence that my religion's teachings are at least partly mythical, I am having some problems making that leap of faith myself.
'the heart cannot worship what the mind rejects'BikeViking
Jul 19, 2002 5:45 AM
THere is a part of me that desires to have the faith I see in other, but I just cannot/will not bridge that gap. It's a very interesting, yet perplexing state I am in when it comes to religion
but, butDougSloan
Jul 19, 2002 6:19 AM
There have been women in my life that I loved profusely, yet knew we were not right for each other. If you can call that "worship," then I don't think that statement is always true.

faith, etcDougSloan
Jul 19, 2002 3:19 PM
To have faith, I don't think it means you can never have doubts. I'd be many do. But, it is just a feeling down to your soul (heh heh) that you believe, despite entertaining doubts from time to time.

Not only are there no atheists in foxholes, I bet there are even fewer agnostics. You see your time a comin', and I'd bet that faith really kicks in.

Are you familiar with Thomas Kuhn?Sintesi
Jul 19, 2002 12:50 PM
Remember him and Kant from college Daze :-)jose_Tex_mex
Jul 19, 2002 2:46 PM
I'll check it out. From what I remember no-one was able to contradict Hume in the matter of proof and knowability.
One Last Thought...jose_Tex_mex
Jul 19, 2002 3:51 PM
Thanks for the great ideas, as always I have learned more from those I am in disagreement with. You just never learn as much from someone you agree with... For me this post was sooo much more fun than politics.

I think we have all seen how easy it is to get tied up in symantics, diction, scientific jargon and how difficult it is to get everyone "on the same page" and playing with the same ruleset.

Perhaps, this is exactly the point. Perhaps, the knowledge or faith we seek is not something that is spoken or transmitted over the Internet. Perhaps, it is a journey we must soley take - in and of ourselves.

That's kind of what I think - it's a personal journey. Perhaps, others can help. Perhaps, others can hurt.

re: I dont buy it either..jrm
Jul 20, 2002 4:04 PM
The bible is one belief system or many religous belief systems. but the bible performs badly beyond the explaination of a belief system. To think that everything that we are, is the work of one thing is something i dont buy. But atthe same time i believe that for many followers of religion there belief system brings them closure.
Do you still believe in electrons?Woof the dog
Jul 21, 2002 11:53 PM
I am everything, I am god...and so are you!!! Logic and reason need to be removed on the way to higher self. That is why there is no sense to chase Nobel prizes - it is all self deception, a fallacy of a small egoistic logical mind, and at most the slowest and the most difficult way to discover the meaning and reality of our existence.

Great topic (once again)

Woof the god.
why is dog god spelled backwards? (nm)ColnagoFE
Jul 22, 2002 8:39 AM
why is dog god spelled backwards? (nm)Woof
Jul 22, 2002 10:16 AM
take a wild guess ;-)
not the sameDougSloan
Jul 22, 2002 2:53 PM
Even though we accept what others tell us about electrons and the like, it's not the same as faith.

The difference is that we can construct a test to determine whether electrons exist, and people all over the world can independently arrive at the same conclusion. By contrast, there is no test to determine whether God exists. We either accept the idea on faith or we don't.