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Author Topic: Can an Infinite, Designer, Creator God be Brought Within the Realm of Science?  (Read 15870 times)

Offline CliffordK

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One of the problems with the concept of "God" is that it is a moving target. 

People believe in the truth of a document created over 2000 years ago.  While the Greeks, Egyptians, and other cultures had some forms of science, they clearly didn't have the tools that we have available today.

So people start thinking...  well, maybe God was an alien from Mars...  well, maybe not Mars, but from a distant star.  Or, perhaps man wasn't created from dirt, but that Mankind was seeded on Earth by some alien species.

Or...  life is some "Matrix-like" video game?

Clearly these weren't the beliefs or interpretations of the very human authors of the Bible over 2000 years ago.

So, should we assume that the authors of the bible were right about the existence of God, but wrong about him being an alien?
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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The answer to the revised question is now I believe a clear no.  With the follow up statement that all current and possible future scientific knowledge gan be fitted into the concept of the major moderate religions as a way to define how we should behave towards each other and the rest of the universe by the reinterpretation of the myths, legends and parables that support the basis for behaviour in the religion.
 

Offline namaan

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Soul Surfer, Gordian Knot, with respect, I didn't change the title to summarize a two page discussion on fairly diverse issues. I did it simply to show respect to proper usage of scientific terms.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Perhaps we should just choose to worship Aldus Huxley's God, Henry.
 

Offline Gordian Knot

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Namaan, you misunderstand me. I'm attempting to answer the spirit of your question , regardless of the title of the thread.
_____________________________

Okay David. I'm a sucker for a challenge.

First though, one question Why is it that the whole concept of God is a fundamentally irrational idea?

Definition of God.
A conscious awareness that chose to set in motion the creation of everything we call reality.
« Last Edit: 24/01/2012 01:18:04 by Gordian Knot »
 

Offline namaan

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Perhaps we should just choose to worship Aldus Huxley's God, Henry.

It's a free country! :) Or at least it is where I'm at...
 

Offline namaan

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Namaan the perfect "text" that you describe does and has always existed it is to be found all around is in the properties of the universe itself.  Most modern theologians are totally happy with the "two books" approach to theology.  The first book whatever written human wisdom and myth exists in their particular religion. The second is the book of nature, life, the universe and everything written all around us. As shown to us by science.  It is only groups of restricted closed sects that reject the supreme second book over the first.

I agree with the first part, but not so much with the "two books" approach. Not because it's wrong, but because I find it unnecessary, a long-cut as it were. Our approaches are subtly, but distinctly quite different even though I don't reject either book.
The vast progress achieved through science has pushed religion into the background over the last one hundred years because it tends to insist on outdated concepts and the only voices that are heard are the voices of extremist cranks getting it a bad name. The re-examination of the basic metaphors in most of the world's main religions and their re-statement in the context of the modern scientific world and not that originated in pre scientific dogma.  Could create an environment in which a new sort of religion can grow and reinvigorate the big society where we accept that although we are distinct individuals we all depend totally on each other and the rest of the world for our basic sustenance.
Agreed, though here again, I'm not sure a reexamination of Biblical metaphors and stories will make it more compatible with established science. If anything, I imagine it will make divisions more glaring, unless of course by reexamination you mean a fundamental rewrite.
The answer to the revised question is now I believe a clear no.  With the follow up statement that all current and possible future scientific knowledge gan be fitted into the concept of the major moderate religions as a way to define how we should behave towards each other and the rest of the universe by the reinterpretation of the myths, legends and parables that support the basis for behaviour in the religion.

A similar story; what you say sounds agreeable, but there are important nuances. This topic has already lost some of its focus so I'll try and not get too specific. I'm only going to point out here that most members of the scientific community that is represented by TNS was, I pressume, likely raised in a Christian society. I point this out because even if you yourself may be Athiest or Agnostic, your conception of what God is or can be never-the-less is likely based at least in part by Christianity. Being an Athiest of course means that one does not believe in God, and hence the Abrahamic books are man-made. If so, I would ask that you treat them as such ("not judging a book by its cover", etc.). If you lump all religious books in one homogenous pile, you'll miss important nuances. Not all are about personal salvation, or envision God to be in the image of man, or describe women as being made from the rib of man.

So when you speak of myths and legends, it isn't really meaningful for me because that is not what my "first book" contains. It does have parables of course, but it is even less-so relevant for me given that what it does contain is commands for seeking out knowledge, and commands to not have blind faith in God, as two examples. I'm unable to see a distinction or need for a distinction between science and God due to the contents of my first book.

On a related note, while I'm trying to avoid discussing it directly since it might derail the focus of the thread, I guess I can't help but point this out. Given the above (that my conception of God is likely considerably different from what many might be imagining it is) I would just like to point out that I re-titled the thread at my intellectual expense. The idea that God needs to be brought within the realm of science to me is just ridiculous, but I'm trying my best to keep this discussion scientific -_-

Completely hypothetically speaking for a second (we can think truly hypothetically as scientists yes?) let's imagine that God actually is Infinite, designed and created the universe, and exists/is real. Now, given this hypothetical scenario, how strange does it seem that we are trying to fit God into our little explanatory boxes?
« Last Edit: 24/01/2012 03:20:06 by namaan »
 

Offline Nizzle

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God exists as a coping mechanism for humanity
 

Offline JP

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I moved this topic since it was never really a science question about physics and astronomy and its also veered into religion and the philosophy of science.  This forum will give people a chance to respond with more freedom than in one of the science Q&A fora.
 

Offline JP

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Now, about the topic at hand--I think its worth considering what a god(s) theory is trying to show.  In essence, by describing a god, you're trying to come up with a theory that explains everything--the god is a first cause of everything in nature.  In physics, there are some scientists trying to do the same thing--to come up with a "theory of everything."

The thing is that I don't see how using science to describe god (the first cause of everything) would be any different than using science to describe the theory of everything (also the first cause of everything).  If you're restricting yourself to scientific arguments, then the two should be identical so far as science is concerned (or there would be two theories of everything!) 
 

Offline namaan

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I moved this topic since it was never really a science question about physics and astronomy and its also veered into religion and the philosophy of science.  This forum will give people a chance to respond with more freedom than in one of the science Q&A fora.

That's really too bad, but I don't come on TNS to just chat. Others may feel free to discuss this amongst themselves. And you aren't wrong that a theory of God must necessarily be a theory of everything. But that doesn't at all help me. The whole point was if the theory of God is the theory of everything, the problem is the scientific establishment, as exemplified by the move of this forum, isn't able to take such a theory seriously by the inherent nature of the discussion; hence the idea can't progress beyond just chatting.
 

Offline imatfaal

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I moved this topic since it was never really a science question about physics and astronomy and its also veered into religion and the philosophy of science.  This forum will give people a chance to respond with more freedom than in one of the science Q&A fora.

That's really too bad, but I don't come on TNS to just chat.
Nonetheless - this is a science question and answer forum, we restrict the main fora to questions of testable, falsifiable science.

If you have any further questions/points on the moderators' decision to move the thread please address them via PM to a moderator or administrator.

Quote
Others may feel free to discuss this amongst themselves. And you aren't wrong that a theory of God must necessarily be a theory of everything. But that doesn't at all help me. The whole point was if the theory of God is the theory of everything, the problem is the scientific establishment, as exemplified by the move of this forum, isn't able to take such a theory seriously by the inherent nature of the discussion; hence the idea can't progress beyond just chatting.
This is because scientists will, more often than not, treat matters of faith and science as incommensurable; there is no common ground upon which a discussion can agree.  The "scientific establishment" (whoever they are) do not exist to answer all questions and right all misconceptions - it exists to answer scientific questions and correct misunderstanding of physical phenomena. 

It is no more possible to prove (or disprove) the existence of God scientifically than it is to prove the world is round musically. - Julian Huxley
« Last Edit: 24/01/2012 15:09:20 by imatfaal »
 

Offline rosy

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Namaan:

You want a "scientific" discussion of the idea that there might be a god, but any scientific approach requires a clearly defined, testable prediction. An omnipotent god would be in control of the outcomes of your experiments. Within any sensible definitions of "science" and "omnipotent god" it is not possible to unite the two.

That's without dragging in the fact that there are as many interpretations of god(s) as there are believers, even assuming that any one believer's view of their interpretation of god is consistent, which if the believers amongst my friends and acquaintances are typical is pretty unusual (and the bible isn't a good start on that front). So what, exactly, are you wanting to test?
 

Offline namaan

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While I don't find the Just Chat! forum the most appropriate place for this, I'm not exactly bitter or anything and have no intention of questioning the decision to move the thread. The reason I implied that I don't intend to continue the discussion is simply because the move had more or less given me a rather clear answer to the original question. There's no deeper subtext here, I understand what you are all saying.

The many responses to my original question were pretty much completely unanimous with regards to a scientific approach to God. It's fairly reasonable I think to ascertain from that that an adherence to the scientific process makes it impossible to approach a theory of God.

So I'm not sure why you find the term "scientific establishment" to be insulting in this case imatfaal, an establishment is simply a group of people that establish some sort of foundation. And the foundation of science is the scientific process, which came directly to the fore in response to a theory of God. The unanimity of the responses makes the use of the term quite appropriate I think.
 

Offline Geezer

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You keep using the term "theory of god", but no theory is presented.
 

Offline rosy

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Perhaps in the US the term "the establishment" is not as loaded with meaning as it is in the UK... I wouldn't know.

In the UK describing someone as part of "the establishment" suggests that they are comfortably ensconced in the current regime (probably doing reasonably well out of it financially), and suggests that they will oppose any change simply because they will be inconvenienced by it and not because they have in any way thought about it.

If you talk to a Brit about a particular opinion being "the establishment view" you're implying (and it will be assumed that you are deliberately implying) that it's an opinion which is held because it is the establishment view, without any intelligent thought. Bear in mind that few of us over here believe that we live in a meritocracy (we don't believe the US is a meritocracy either, but that's a different ballgame), who your parents are and where you went to school and university still has a powerful effect on your life chances generally and more particularly on your chance of  becoming part of "the establishment". In fact, this is much less true in science than of almost any field of endeavour (tho' not, of course, entirely untrue).

I think if you wanted to use a term that wasn't going to irritate people, "consensus" view might fit better, or "mainstream" view, depending on which "establishment" (the forum, or "the scientific establishment") you wanted to suggest the views here represented.

It's also probably worth observing that on this website in particular we get a lot of (slightly, or very, obsessive) posters who think they've found some way in which the current scientific model is wrong (typically they believe they've disproved general relativity or thermodynamics, or that they've invented a perpetual motion machine), and when someone points out that their new "theory" is not consistent with experimental results they wail that "the establishment" is out to get them, and that when they are seen to be right, all the people who've said them nay will lose their research grants/jobs/whatever. Of course, that's not how science works, and if someone does show that the whole of the standard model is wrong the scientists currently researching the standard model would jump for joy and then turn right round and work on the new model.

I don't get the feeling you're one of those, you seem to be actually interested in the question you posed and in what other people think about it, rather than using this as a starting point to attempt to pitch your own religious opinions. But maybe that will help explain why you may feel people've been a bit harsh about this.

Not sure this is terribly coherent, but it is at least intended to be helpful.
 

Offline namaan

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I imagine it's not much different here in the US, though I can't speak for the whole country. I was aware that the term can be potentially off-putting in certain contexts, such as the ones you described (obsessive posters, etc.), but assumed I had provided enough context to make clear what I was trying to say (hence why I said "I'm not sure why you find the term "scientific establishment" to be insulting in this case).

I wasn't speaking about consensus views or mainstream views because views don't make decisions, people do. In this case, I found the word establishment to be the most technically correct given unanimous/consensus views held by those who responded to this thread. There's really no need to attach all the other negative baggage though.

And don't worry, everyone's been helpful :)
 

Offline imatfaal

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I couldn't say it any better than Rosy already did. 

From a more personal point of view the implication was that scientists as a group (to avoid the establishment  area) do not take the theory seriously per se - this is incorrect.  many scientists take it so seriously as to spend large amounts of time debating it - but no real scientist can take it seriously as a "scientific theory"

I still think you are trying to be overly proscriptive in saying that "an adherence to the scientific process makes it impossible to approach a theory of God"  You might like to google John Polkinghorn  if you think this is such an impossibility - although I would agree if you were to insert "falsifiable" before the word "theory"
 

Offline namaan

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You keep using the term "theory of god", but no theory is presented.

As per my above response to JP, if I actually had a well defined theory of God, it would be tantamount to me saying I had a well defined theory of everything. I'm not quite that ambitious.

I thought it was clear by all my posts that I was not attempting to discuss a particular theory of God here, but only intended to discuss that if such a theory existed, how could it be discussed/approached in a scientific setting? If you would like a potentially more complete answer to your question, then below is a copy of a part of an earlier post that I didn't get a direct response to.

The point is it seems to me that it should be possible to create a scientific theory/conjecture of God, not that any of you need to be necessarily interested in it. For example, if I'm not mistaken, there's no entity called "evolution" that we can test directly. We create a model that fits the theory, make predictions from the model, and test whether the predictions pan out; that they do quite nicely in the case of evolution of course.

So a common religious position is that the evidence of God is in his exacting design of the universe. So, for example, one might say that a scientific discussion on this might take the form of considering the various forms and occurrences that this design takes throughout the universe. I'm not saying any of you should have some sort of moral responsibility to build such a theory or take part in such discussions, rather I only mean to flesh out for myself and whoever else might be interested in the subject matter the means to approach a theory of God in context to established science.

Btw, if what I said about establishment sounds inherently personal, please just ignore it. I only meant it in a non-personal, technically manner. And I'm aware that there are scientists that take God seriously, but to me the gap between an interesting read on science/religion to an actual full-fledged theory on God seemed large enough to make that statement. I basically started the discussion from the logical endpoint of the assumption that such a God does exist; the endpoint being where an actual rigorous theory of everything has to be formulated to describe God and all of reality. It is at this point that it seems that the scientific process would be unable to encompass such a theory. Or I could just be wrong.
 

Offline JP

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We don't know if its possible to come up with a scientific theory of everything.  We've been trying for thousands of years and haven't done it yet.  Some people think we can, while others think the scientific method is inherently limited to creating good models, but not describing underlying causes. 

Assuming we do come up with a theory, why are you so insistent that we use the word "god" to describe it?
 

Offline graham.d

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Although discussions such as this are interesting, they seldom achieve much because the fundamental philosophical positions of the correspondents are not defined. Science works by postulating reasons for why things behave as they do. If the reasoning is logically sound, and the premises on which the conjecture is based do not conflict with observations, then it can be said to be a valid theory. Should some conflict arise then the theory is, at best, approximate or, at worst, completely wrong. Good theories enable predictions to be made on how something will behave before it is tried, and hopefully, verified.

Now how does God fit in with this? Basically, He doesn't. There is no relation between this and any belief in God. It is possible that God has set up the universe with patterns for us to discover or it is possible that these patterns have occurred by the nature of the universe itself. It could be argued, in this latter case, that God created the nature of the universe in such a way, rather than creating the universe itself. But how does reaching such a conclusion make any difference to us? In these cases, of a God who creates something then does nothing else, it makes no difference to us whatsoever.

I think we should look at the reasons why people have religious beliefs and see whether having such beliefs are, in themselves, rational. People throughout the ages, and in different parts of the world, have come to differing conclusions regarding their beliefs. These beliefs may have arisen so as to try to form an understanding of a world that was beyond their comprehension (as it still is). This gives comfort to people as it seems in the nature of humans to want to feel there maybe some meaning to their existence. In many cases these beliefs become a religion that may be manipulated by some to obtain power, wealth, status or some other advantages. It is in the nature of a religion that it is believed without the need for rigorous testing of its predictions. What is certain is that religions differ, creation myths differ and the number of supernatural beings change (as do their respective traits and/or powers). Do we conclude that one of these is somehow privileged and "correct" and the others are wrong? And this one just happens to be related to the one we were brought up to believe, or do we conclude that they are all probably creations of man?

It seems to me that any theory of God get nowhere because any time that an observation looks to hard to reconcile, it is easy to say that is just how God has made it so. You can try to look for scientific consistancy or you can stop there and just believe that is the way it is. I think those scientists who believe in God still keep looking, though I am not so sure such a belief is encouraging, especially from religious establishments. It was positively discouraging at times in the past.

Generally speaking I see no reason or advantage to a theory of God, and can see a lot of negatives associated with the whole concept.
 

Offline Geezer

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Tangentially, I saw a car with a bumper-sticker the other day that read;
 
"Dog is my co-pilot."
 

Offline namaan

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Tangentially, I saw a car with a bumper-sticker the other day that read;
 
"Dog is my co-pilot."

Classy Geezer, classy. The age of enlightenment is truly upon us.
 

Offline David Cooper

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I thought this thread must have been deleted as there was nothing in the original subforum saying it had been moved - I only found it here because I looked in on the off chance that it had been mentioned, but here it is.

I think Namaan is actually trying to do something worthwhile, though it's doomed to failure. If you read the Qur'aan (Koran), you'll soon see that it attempts to argue its case in scientific and logical ways, and that could lead followers of Islam to think that science and religion could be compatible and that God could be accounted for by science.

The problem comes, however, as soon as you try to define what God is. Let's start with a definition from Gordian Knot:-

First though, one question Why is it that the whole concept of God is a fundamentally irrational idea?

Definition of God.
A conscious awareness that chose to set in motion the creation of everything we call reality.

That runs straight into a problem: the conscious awareness would have to have created itself if it is to be a member of the set of things called "everything we call reality). If it isn't in that set, it isn't real.

Let me go through some of the fundamentals:-

Imagine a primary realm of existence in which an intelligence resides, or a primary realm of existence which is that intelligence. He/it happens to exist and has no purpose in existing - the only things which can ever have purpose are things that are made (or done) to carry out some end which has been calculated in advance by an intelligence. For God to have a purpose, he would have to have been created for that purpose by another intelligence, in which case we've started with the wrong candidate - we must transfer our interest to his creator, and when we find the top creator we have inevitably reached one who has no purpose.

Now, this supreme intelligence and primary being (who is in that position by chance - it's not of his own doing) decides to make things (as he might as well do something with his time and powers to pass the time). He makes a universe (or maybe many of them) and populates tiny parts of it with life. There are now more intelligences in existence, but he regards himself as superior to them. Is he justified in that opinion? What does superior mean? (It has more than one meaning, but we can ignore the one that simply means it has more of something, such as more strength or more material). Is a stone superior to a rock? No: not unless a purpose is involved. If you need something heavy to weigh something down, a rock may be superior to a stone. If you need something that you're capable of throwing, a stone may be superior to a rock.  Superiority (of the kind we're interested in) is completely tied up in purpose and otherwise has no role. If God made us for some reason, whether that be to pass the time or to have someone to talk to, we would have a purpose for him, but nothing he does can ever give him a purpose for himself because he wasn't created for a purpose. Superiority cannot have any role to play in a comparison between him and us. Of course, in a world where many people also believe in royalty, they have a false idea about superiority sitting in their heads which backs up their ideas about God being inherently superior too, even though both these ideas (royalty and God) are completely baseless.

So where is this going? Well, there is nothing about God that can make him qualify as anything more exciting than an alien being which happens to have existed first and which happens to have access to all the levers of power (and to have made sure that we cannot access them). "God" needs more than that to qualify as God, because all we have to go on otherwise is that he's the big chief alien, and that is insufficent to justify his claim to be God. Taking on the name "God" doesn't do it either - I could call myself God, but no one would take that as evidence for me being God.

So, what we need is some kind of definition of God which sets out something about him which would actually qualify him as God. Being here before someone else isn't good enough - our parents are not more divine than us through existing before us, and we are not more divine than our children either. Having access to more power doesn't make anyone more divine than anyone else either: mass-murdering dictators are very powerful as people go, but they are certainly not more divine. Morality might be seen as a factor, but people are riddled with faults which aren't of their own doing - they have no free will and are simply driven by their desires and the attempts of their intellect to make them do the best thing at all times. If they had been made perfectly (like an artificial intelligence system which uses a correct morality formula to govern its behaviour) they would express perfect moral behaviour at all times, but that would not make them more divine.

I'll leave it to you to come up with suggestions as to how "God" might try to qualify as more than just a natural alien being, but I can tell you for free that there is nothing that can succeed. If he tries to qualify using magic, he will have to understand how that magic works in order to qualify as God, and by understanding it he destorys it's magical nature. If he tries to qualify by being supernatural, he has to make an arbitrary divide of nature into supernature and nature, and then the leaky barrier between the two will burst and reunite them - if things can interact, they must be part of the same system or they would have no mechanisms to allow them to interact, and that system in which all interacting things reside is by definition nature. God has to be part of nature, and that automatically opens him up to scientific study - even if we can't access him to study him, he can study himself and become a scientist. If he understands how he works, he will inevitably be forced to describe himself as a natural being, but if he can't, he fails to qualify as God due to a lack of essential knowledge.

God is logically impossible, as I said before. All he can ever be is a powerful alien being which happened to exist first, and that isn't something you should base a religion on.
 

Offline JP

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I thought this thread must have been deleted as there was nothing in the original subforum saying it had been moved - I only found it here because I looked in on the off chance that it had been mentioned, but here it is.

Odd.  The redirection post was there when I moved this thread... more weirdness due to the forum upgrade and downtime, I suspect...
 

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