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Author Topic: Can an Infinite, Designer, Creator God be Brought Within the Realm of Science?  (Read 15858 times)

Offline namaan

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

I suppose the short answer to that is that if such a theory is developed, then it will require a being like God to exist to fully explain reality. So why not call it a theory of God?

But I'm not insisting anything in particular, and it doesn't really matter what you call the theory. If an infinite designer, creator God is real and exists, then whatever path scientific progression takes, it must, if correct, approach an understanding that God is real and exists. This must be the case because it is reasonable to imagine that a design created to infinite capacity would likely leave its trace in the creation. This trace takes on in things like exacting universal constants, etc.
« Last Edit: 26/01/2012 02:10:01 by namaan »
 

Offline JP

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If there is an ultimate theory of everything that can be approached scientifically, then there is going to be only one theory that gets approached.  I agree with you there.  But we really have no idea if science can even get to such a theory.  Assuming it's so without evidence is already pushing the bounds of good science.

Even if we assume for the sake of argument that we can get to a scientific theory of everything, there is scientific justification that it's a "god," i.e. a being as we understand it. 

If you do assume there is a scientific theory of everything and that that scientific theory of everything is god, then you've left the path of science so far behind that what you're postulating can't really be considered scientific anymore.  If you find scientific proof of this, it would be another story, but at the current point in time, you're way beyond what can be scientifically claimed.

Indirect evidence like finely tuned constants isn't any help in this regard, since there are other reasons they could exist that way (see the anthropic principle).  Plus, observing something then later on coming up with a theory to match it isn't particularly good science: good science involves coming up with theories that make new predictions and then testing those theories.
 

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."

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

We always aim to please  ;D
 
(Our pastor thought it was hilarious!)
 

Offline namaan

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Although discussions such as this are interesting, they seldom achieve much...

I agree wholeheartedly, with the caveat that the specific discussion that is unlikely to achieve much is the same one I've been trying to avoid. It might be hard to believe, but atheists and agnostics don't have a monopoly on finding religious debates to be largely a waste of time. It is one of those phenomena where everyone who enters the intellectual pool does so with their views finalized before hand. At that point, all that's left to be found is an excess of ego, suppositions, and time.

Having said that, I find the other discussion (on a scientific approach to a theory of God) to be both important and, crucially, wholly distinct from the first.

So I assume you'll understand if I don't respond to much of the rest of your post that really is mostly dealing with the first discussion. I've heard all these arguments, and frankly speaking, I wouldn't entertain them even if this were a religious forum. We humans are endlessly versatile in rationalizing and re-rationalizing our beliefs when faced with facts and information that stands contrary to our attitudes. So even if either of us thought that they had come up with some masterful bit of logic and reasoning that they supposed would be capable of completely routing the basis of the other's argument, if it stood fundamentally in contrary to the others' basic attitudes about the argument, it will have no capacity to convince or impress. I'm no expert, but I should know at least that much with my psych studies.

Which brings me to a misunderstanding some still seem to be having about this discussion. An existential argument is not a good or relevant response to the question at hand. What's being discussed is assuming an existential argument of God to the affirmative, how can this idea be brought into science? Well, I already gathered a tentative answer to this of course: science as it is currently conceived as per the scientific process, can't encompass a theory of God (or as you would rather like to say [I assume], it makes an idea of God impossible). I will look forward to any argument that specifically addresses this.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Have you watched the Zeitgeist Film?...  Well, at least the first one, it now appears as if they've made four.  But, at least the first one discusses religion.

Anyway, the film points out that Christianity has borrowed many concepts from other religions, perhaps to appease the locals.

Is it any surprise that Jesus's birthday is a couple of days after the Winter Solstice, and around the New Year?
Easter and Jesus's rebirth is aligned with the Spring Equinox.

While dates vary, some people put the Age of Pisces as beginning at 0AD, and the birth of Christ.  Coincidence?

So, what happens with the end of the Age of Pisces, and begging of the Age of Aquarius?  Which nobody seems to agree on its beginning either, but it is often set at about 2000 AD.

Anyway, if you wish to apply science to God...  Perhaps one should just use the scientific method to analyze the way religion itself works.  What each religion takes from other religions.  The basic meaning of their symbolism.
 

Offline Geezer

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It might be hard to believe, but atheists and agnostics don't have a monopoly on finding religious debates to be largely a waste of time. It is one of those phenomena where everyone who enters the intellectual pool does so with their views finalized before hand.

I'm sorry, but I believe that is complete nonsense.

Scientists are those who, by definition, seek knowledge. If they have preconceived ideas, they are really crummy scientists. Knowledge is not that which someone else dictated.

Is the Universe mysterious? Yes.

Was it created by a god, several gods, an infinite number of gods, a gigantic mangleworzel, or an infinite number of gigantic mangleworzels, or something else? I do not know, and I'm sure any scientist, regardless of your categorization, will jump right on it just as soon as somebody coughs up an experiment that they can test.

Those humans who seek to define god hope to set themselves apart from the rest of humanity.
 

Offline imatfaal

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../
Was it created by a god, several gods, an infinite number of gods, a gigantic mangleworzel, or an infinite number of gigantic mangleworzels, or something else? I do not know, and I'm sure any scientist, regardless of your categorization, will jump right on it just as soon as somebody coughs up an experiment that they can test.

.../

There is only one Mangelworzel! An infinity ?  Blasphemy!  Fetch the comfy chair Cardinal Fang!

It might be hard to believe, but atheists and agnostics don't have a monopoly on finding religious debates to be largely a waste of time. It is one of those phenomena where everyone who enters the intellectual pool does so with their views finalized before hand.
  This is seriously insulting Namaan - so is everyone who has contributed to this thread is so blinkered and set in their ways to be unable to change their views?  Geezer is completely correct (did I just type that?) but any scientist who enters an arena with completely preconceived and immovable ideas should hand in their notice and see if there is work at the nearest council office.   We might set a very high threshold for changing our minds on certain questions (I will need more than a group of Swiss and Italians who cant use a stopwatch to dismiss SR for example) - but if one's mind is truly closed to change then one is nothing more than a bigot and has no claim to rationalism or science
 

Offline Don_1

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It might be hard to believe, but atheists and agnostics don't have a monopoly on finding religious debates to be largely a waste of time. It is one of those phenomena where everyone who enters the intellectual pool does so with their views finalized before hand.

Unlike the Catholic Church, who maintained an open mind when Copernicus, and later Galileo, suggested that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, not threatening excommunication and imprisonment for those who dared to question the Bible. ?????????????

Unlike the Catholic Church who did not deny the existence of sadists and paedophiles among some nuns and priests.    ????????????

Unlike the Puritans who did not burn 'witches'.

If ever there were closed minds, the church has to be the biggest offender.
 

Offline namaan

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Please stop blowing up misunderstandings out of all proportion. A stroll around religious discussions at TNS finds witting intentional, witting underhanded, and quite often unwitting underhanded insults to intelligence that generally paint those who ascribe to a religion as delusional believers in a non-existent entity that is such nonsense as to deserve regular mocking, all nonchalantly of course. I find no problem in ignoring all these insults only because I find it worth a meaningful discussion. Granted, some of the cynicism in my posts is probably a response to these insults.

So if you can't read past to the last paragraph, then I have nothing else to say except the following. I have friends who are atheist or of other religions, and if ever a religious discussion comes up, then speaking in a personal capacity, I find it to be a terrible waste of time for the reasons mentioned. And while you might have a point that scientists are ideally supposed to be these ever-skeptical beings, reality is wanting. This ideal ever-skeptical being of yours doesn't exist since we are only humans. And humans don't remain ever-inquisitive children till old age.

Given these natural limitations, I'm sure as scientists you all try to the best of your humanly capacity to consider every idea in its own right, but there never-the-less remains several problems for me with discussing religion:

1) It frankly isn't relevant to the question as I've already pointed out a few times.
2) I've never come across an existential argument on God that I've found to be very well thought out or convincing. You are free to think that this is due to my inability to reason at your level, or that I'm just in a state of denial.
3) In my experience, existential arguments take a lot of time to make, much less time to break down, and achieve relatively little. Being in business, I'm unable to ignore the investment vs. tradeoff issue with this.

So no, I don't think that "everyone who has contributed to this thread is so blinkered and set in their ways to be unable to change their views" - you're just putting words in my mouth. I started this thread with very specific intentions. We have the rest of the internet to discuss the existential argument, though you're unlikely to find me there (unless I were to dig up my older posts).
 

Offline graham.d

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Namaan, coming into the discussion rather late I misunderstood the point of the thread (I think). I think it is unusual, though not impossible, for a non-believer to apply scientific principles to developing a theory of God. Most people in science have an idea and then try to see whether this idea fits all the known facts and is self consistant. Being human, the effort needed to undertake such a task requires, and reinforces, some degree in belief that the idea is correct. Nonetheless, some scientific approach could be developed to look at concepts from a hypothetical position. Is this what you are expecting?

From my perspective it hard to know where to start. What God are we trying to scientifically justify? Is it a particular one or rather the more general concept of the universe being in the control of an intelligence? I think specific God-qualities, as defined by most religions, fall down when subjected to any scientific study. At least, it seems to me that for most religions, many things that were previously held to be indisputably true have been proved wrong, although a large number of people still believe in the old ideas whilst some are happy to modify their view to fit in with modern interpretations. I would point out the ideas of natural selection versus the idea that God created the world in 6 days a few thousand years ago as one example. I think a staring point would be to pick an example of the features that the God, that we are trying to have the theory about, possesses.

I suspect that the abstract God we will end up defining will be so "hands-off" that it would make no material difference whether he exists or not. Such a God may be indiscernable from the natural universe itself.

So the question is what God are we trying to work with?
 

Offline Don_1

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Please stop blowing up misunderstandings out of all proportion.

I think you will find the millions who have suffered from religious persecution would not think things have been blown out of proportion.

....... A stroll around religious discussions at TNS finds witting intentional, witting underhanded, and quite often unwitting underhanded insults to intelligence that generally paint those who ascribe to a religion as delusional believers in a non-existent entity that is such nonsense as to deserve regular mocking, all nonchalantly of course. .......
......... We have the rest of the internet to discuss the existential argument.....

I don't wish to be rude, but if this is your opinion, why do you post here? Why not go to a forum such as this one, where members are more disposed, nay, perhaps even welcome and revel in such arguments. This is a science forum, pure and simple, not a science vs religion forum.

I have made my choice, nobody, but nobody influenced me in my choice and I am happy with my choice, as I presume you are with your choice. If I had any doubts about my choice, I would seek to address them. I do not impose my choice upon others and respectfully request that they do not impose their choice upon me.

All of us here are capable of making our own decisions. We really don't want or need anyone to try to convert us. Those of us who believe, will doubtless continue to believe, those of us who don't, will continue to disbelieve. Let's just leave it at that.
 

Offline David Cooper

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I don't think Namaan is trying to convert anyone here - he's simply looking for a way to include God within science, which is a very sensible thing for an intelligent religious person who believes in science to try to do. However, since he isn't interested in reading any arguments that point out why it will ultimately fail, he's doomed to follow the slow track instead, and he's already got stuck at the second step. Step one was to come up with the idea of building a scientific theory of God. Done. Step two is to define what God is supposed to be. Not done. If it turns out that God is an infinite, designer, creator, natural alien being, then it isn't anything that most of us would recognise as a God. There could theoretically be such a being out there (though I'm not so sure about the infinite part), and if we could have a conversation with it it would be very keen for us not to think it was stupid for thinking it was God.

So, can we please get past the second step: define your idea of God so that we can tell what the theory is actually supposed to be a theory of.
 

Offline namaan

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However, since he isn't interested in reading any arguments that point out why it will ultimately fail...

A tad presumptuous; I've been reading and trying my best to consider every post in this thread. But I do have a life and job outside TNS, and the 'teams' aren't exactly balanced in numbers. It'll take some time to provide a cogent response to each person. But I was about to respond to your last post anyway. Please consider again for a second my third point on why I avoid existential arguments on God: "In my experience, existential arguments take a lot of time to make, much less time to break down, and achieve relatively little."

With respect, I will present your last post below as case in point (with my comments in bold text in square brackets):

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 [Why? There is no evidence for non-existence to be found anywhere. Evidence, by definition, exists. What if we invented the concept of non-existence? As such, if there is no non-existence, and ever was only existence, then no need for self-creation.] 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 [How do you know this? Do you have evidence for this statement? Or if we're just considering hypotheticals, on what basis are you making an assumption of a lack of purpose?] - 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 [More assumptions. Again, how do you know this? What if there was only ever existence and only ever a self-subsisting infinite God? If we're just assuming and supposing after all...], 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 [And we've come full circle. On what basis do you gather that the creator at top has no purpose?].

Now, this supreme intelligence and primary being (who is in that position by chance [You know this how?] - it's not of his own doing [Same, what is the basis for these assumptions? Please don't just say reasoning again, I'm clearly not finding your reasoning very impressive.]) decides to make things (as he might as well do something with his time [How are you assuming that time is experienced in his realm?] 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 [You say it as if you've had a chat with him. Without getting too specific, this is hardly the only possible interpretation.]. 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 [Repeat of more assumptions]. 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) [All assumptions and suppositions. You don't know that he's like an "alien being which happens to have existed first". You don't know that he just "happens to have access" to power as if it were a random and pointless affair, and you have no basis to say that we cannot access power - have not humans harnessed the power of nature through an understanding of science? This is made possible by a consistent display of the universal laws. GR and SR are fundamentally based on the assumption that the laws that apply here, apply everywhere. That's quite the foundation for access to power from where I stand.]. "God" needs more than that to qualify as God [Far more], because all we have to go on otherwise is that he's the big chief alien [Perhaps from where you stand.], and that is insufficent to justify his claim to be God [Again, perhaps from where you stand.]. 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 [You 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 [Why not? What is your basis for reaching this conclusion?].

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 [Why arbitrary? Because "God has no purpose"?] divide of nature into supernature and nature, and then the leaky barrier between the two will burst [How do you know this?] and reunite them [On what basis?] - 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 [An arbitrary definition, but let's work with it. Do you somehow know what the full set of "things" are in the universe? This would be necessary, of course, to know what nature is by your definition]. God has to be part of nature [You know this how?], 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 [Which is meaningless when considering the idea of an infinite, creator, designer God who understands himself and the universe to infinity]. 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 [Hardly convinced of this.], as I said before. All he can ever be is a powerful alien being which happened to exist first [Assumptions repeated.], and that isn't something you should base a religion on.

There was a point to this exercise, and it wasn't to attempt to route your argument at every step. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised, in fact expect, that you will be capable of producing a counter-argument to all my comments above. But that's just the point isn't it? We're discussing something about which we really have no clear knowledge of.

When you ask me to clearly define God, the question misses the premise of the discussion. If I knew what God was exactly, a being I define abstractly as being infinite, designer and creator, it would really be tantamount to defining in finite terms an infinite being. We can't draw an infintely long line, but we can imagine and discuss the concept of a line of infinite length quite coherently; mathematicians more so than most. The analogue to an equation for a line might be the abstract terms that I've been using all along: an infinite, designer, creator God.

But I will entertain the possibility of greator rigor. Let's start simple and get back to the point on design. If God has designed his creation to infinite capacity, then the design should leave its trace on the creation in the form of things like exacting universal constants, emergent/non-reducible systems, etc. I am aware, of course, that most of these are taken as mere incidences of concidence by the mainstream view on science. So going full circle back to my first post, how many such coincidences are needed, in what form, under what assumptions, etc. before the overall-package of data can be scientifically recognized to be potential evidence of intentional design?
 

Offline namaan

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Indirect evidence like finely tuned constants isn't any help in this regard, since there are other reasons they could exist that way (see the anthropic principle).

The anthropic principle again? Well, this should be relevant to my above post too. And peppercorn mentioned it earlier, and here was my response:

I've read about that. Perhaps I'm just not intelligent enough to understand it :P, but to me it says a whole lot of nothing. Empty logic, as it were. Or rather, the principle itself isn't wrong, but it's used and abused well beyond its explanatory capacity (not unlike using Darwin's theory of evolution to "explain" everything from human sociology to the economy).

It only gets a "well, duh" response from me for formalizing an obvious relationship, and doesn't actually do any explaining with regards to exacting universal constants, etc.

Do let me know if I'm missing something, but I'm unable to see anything substantive in this principle aside from formalizing a set of correlations between universal fine-tuning and existence of conscious life to observe the fine-tuning. Even if we were to consider a correlation vs. causation argument here, I find it quite removed from an existential argument. In other words, if A is correlated with B, not only does that not tell us which caused the other, but it is removed from an explanation of where A and B came from.
 

Offline JP

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The anthropic principle is often part of theories of everything that describe many (or infinite) universes, each of which has different parameters.  The hope is that these theories will be testable at some point, and if we can observe these other universes, we'll have some confirmation that the anthropic principle is the reason for the fine-tuning.

But at the moment, there's not really evidence for it.
« Last Edit: 27/01/2012 17:04:23 by JP »
 

Offline JP

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It strikes me that the answer to the revised topic of this thread is, "yes."  You can bring a creator god into the realm of science by coming up with hypotheses and testing them, just as you would with any proposed theory.  If you want to "prove" god exists, you would have to come up with a hypothesis that rules out non-god theories, test it, and find out that yes, god exists. 

What you can't do is to look at existing observations and try to figure out what kind of god fits those details and call that your "theory of god."  Looking at existing observations is a good place to start when formulating a new hypothesis, but it's not scientifically sound to use existing observations as evidence that your new theory is right. 

The fine tuning of constants is a good example.  You can look at them and say "that's evidence of god," or "that's evidence of the anthropic principle at work," but neither of these are sound scientific theories.  They might lead to testable hypotheses (in the case of the anthropic principle, we could look for other universes or parts of our universe where the parameters aren't fine-tuned). 
 

Offline David Cooper

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Please consider again for a second my third point on why I avoid existential arguments on God: "In my experience, existential arguments take a lot of time to make, much less time to break down, and achieve relatively little."

With respect, I will present your last post below as case in point (with my comments in bold text in square brackets):

Thank you for your response - I always find it very useful to get a view like that of how other people think. I will respond to your bold objections in the following quotes (of mine) because they are demonstrably invalid:-

Quote
That (Definition of God = A conscious awareness that chose to set in motion the creation of everything we call reality) runs straight into a problem: the conscious awareness would have to have created itself [Why? There is no evidence for non-existence to be found anywhere. Evidence, by definition, exists. What if we invented the concept of non-existence? As such, if there is no non-existence, and ever was only existence, then no need for self-creation.] 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.

You've jumped in in the middle and split the argument, then attacked the first half in a completely irrelevant manner while ignoring the whole point. Here is the point again:-

Things that are not real don't exist.
"Everything we call reality" is the set of all things that exist.
Something-which-sets-in-motion-everything-we-call-reality must be a member of the set of all things that exist, otherwise the something is not real and cannot have done what has been claimed.

Quote
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 [How do you know this? Do you have evidence for this statement? Or if we're just considering hypotheticals, on what basis are you making an assumption of a lack of purpose?] - 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 [More assumptions. Again, how do you know this? What if there was only ever existence and only ever a self-subsisting infinite God? If we're just assuming and supposing after all...], 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 [And we've come full circle. On what basis do you gather that the creator at top has no purpose?].

Again you jump in in the middle of the argument and ignore the explanation that follows the proposition. The word "purpose" specifically relates to things made/modified or actions performed by an intelligence in order to achieve some end. Something which has not been created in order to achieve some calculated goal has quite simply not been created for a purpose. A stone which has been made by frost-shattering of rock was not made for a purpose. It may be possible to use that stone for a purpose, but then it is the usage of it which has the purpose rather than the stone. Now, I can understand your difficulty with this if you've started out with a belief that God created everything for a purpose, because then it is hard for you to imagine anything not having a purpose as you just take it as a given, but there is one clear exception, and that is God himself who was very clearly not created for a purpose. If you want to say that God has a purpose, you need to explain what intelligence created him and for what end. Clearly you must refuse to do this because you cannot have him being created by another intelligence or by himself, so he cannot be given a purpose.

Another important point you should consider about purpose is this: if I make something for some purpose, I do not magically acquire any degree of divine status for that object by creating it, and God is in exactly the same position - he cannot give us a purpose any more meaningful than we can give purpose to the things we make. Furthermore, if we use science to create complex living things (and we may do just that in the future) which are equivalent to ourselves in capability and feelings, they will not be inferior to us through being our creation. They will have a purpose in that they will have been created by us for a reason (or many reasons), while we may have no purpose if we are just evolved creatures, but neither of us can be more divine than the other. They could even be more intelligent than us, but neither they nor us would have any qualifications for being divine.

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Now, this supreme intelligence and primary being (who is in that position by chance [You know this how?] - it's not of his own doing [Same, what is the basis for these assumptions? Please don't just say reasoning again, I'm clearly not finding your reasoning very impressive.])...

The supreme intelligence and primary being is in that position by chance because it is not of his own doing - he didn't create himself but just happened to exist (infinitely or otherwise - it doesn't matter which). He cannot take the credit for existing or for being powerful or for being the first to exist or anything else unless he created himself, which we both seem to agree he did not do. I'm not finding your reasoning at all impressive - you really should have got all my points first go.

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...decides to make things (as he might as well do something with his time [How are you assuming that time is experienced in his realm?]...

It doesn't matter whether it does or not, but he can't have a purpose for his own existence and he can't give himself one by creating us either. Finding a reason for him creating us is your problem and not mine.

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...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 [You say it as if you've had a chat with him. Without getting too specific, this is hardly the only possible interpretation.]. ...

Are you objecting to the idea that God needs to be superior to us in order to qualify as God? If he doesn't regard himself as superior, what can he be other than just a bog-ordinary (even if exceptionally powerful) alien being? The key thing about gods is that they must be superior - no one would waste time worshiping them if they weren't. Without that inherent superiority he is just an alien which we can potentially make contact with and hold conversations with him about everything. We may not be capable of understanding everything that he can understand, but he will only expect us to be able to handle those ideas which we can reasonably process, just in the way we communicate with animals of lesser intelligence to ourselves. We certainly don't expect them to worship us on the basis of things which are beyond their understanding - that would just make us look silly.

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... 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 [Repeat of more assumptions]. 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.

A repeat of incorrect claim of assumptions. These are not assumptions - they are logically argued points and fully correct. You cannot give your God a purpose in existing without giving him a creator. Without a purpose, it is pointless to compare him with us. We have a purpose if he made us for a reason, and it would be possible to compare us with some of his other creations and to wonder which are superior. If they were all perfect creations then none of them could be superior to any others, but that's unimportant. What matters is if we want to compare ourselves with God: we are perfect because he made us (he couldn't have done an imperfect job because he's a perfect creator - any imagined faults in us must be fully intended, which incidentally doesn't give him much of an excuse to send anyone to hell). He on the other hand is not comparible in terms of superiority because he wasn't created for a purpose, just as it is pointless to compare ourselves to stones and ask whether we're superior to them.

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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) [All assumptions and suppositions. You don't know that he's like an "alien being which happens to have existed first". You don't know that he just "happens to have access" to power as if it were a random and pointless affair, and you have no basis to say that we cannot access power - have not humans harnessed the power of nature through an understanding of science? This is made possible by a consistent display of the universal laws. GR and SR are fundamentally based on the assumption that the laws that apply here, apply everywhere. That's quite the foundation for access to power from where I stand.].

He didn't create himself so it isn't by his doing that he has access to the power that he has. I didn't say we can't access power, but we don't appear to be able to access all the power that this God creature has access to for making universes and such like. If I have made an assumption here, it is the result of assuming that God would want to retain power over us rather than sharing it with us as equals. If he is actually prepared to allow us to do all the things that he can do, then that would show that he regards us very much as equals, if our intelligence can be boosted up to the required standard.

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"God" needs more than that to qualify as God [Far more], because all we have to go on otherwise is that he's the big chief alien [Perhaps from where you stand.], and that is insufficent to justify his claim to be God [Again, perhaps from where you stand.]. 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.

You agree that he needs more to qualify as God, but what is that more? The reason people are able to hold the idea of God in their heads is that they haven't fully thought through what it is they're trying to imagine - there are elements of magic tied up in it which they are in awe of, and yet the magic must be false. Strip away the magic, and all you have left is an ordinary, natural being like ourselves. Your theory of God, if you ever start to build it, will actually be a theory that there is an alien out there who is so powerful that he created the universe we live in and that he created us too. That last bit makes him a little bit different from a normal alien, of course, because he would be an alien who also created us, but the only new factor is one that will take us into a long diversion into discussing the difference between natural and artificial.

[I've had to split this into two posts due to word-count limit...]
 

Offline David Cooper

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[Ctd.]

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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 [You 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.

No one has free will. God could not have free will either. Either we do random things (and we struggle to make decisions when they are random) or we do what we hope is the best thing. No one has ever been able to describe an act of free will, and that is not surprising because there is no such thing.

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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 [Why not? What is your basis for reaching this conclusion?].

If people have no free will, their behaviour is neither their fault nor to their credit. A perfect being simply follows moral rules (computational morality can do this with a simple morality formula), while an imperfect being may not always follow them, but if perfect calculation and execution of morality makes something divine, I have created a genuine God through software.

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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 [Why arbitrary? Because "God has no purpose"?] divide of nature into supernature and nature,

Arbitrary in the same way that a creator of a virtual world would be making an arbitrary divide of nature if he claimed he was in a different realm from the contents of the virtual world he had created - they are manifestly part of the same system, with the latter additionally being in a subsystem of the main system. There is a divide, but not one that splits one away from being part of nature.

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...and then the leaky barrier between the two will burst [How do you know this?] and reunite them [On what basis?]

It bursts as soon as you have an interaction across it, such as God communicating with us or visiting us.

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- 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 [An arbitrary definition, but let's work with it. Do you somehow know what the full set of "things" are in the universe? This would be necessary, of course, to know what nature is by your definition].

Science is the study of nature. Science is the attempt to study and explain of all the things that exist. Nature is the sum total of all things that exist, including your God if he's real in any form. Now, you can argue that God is beyond reach and can't be studied by science and that this could make him separate from nature and beyond science, but that would be wrong - he can easily turn scientist and study himself.

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God has to be part of nature [You know this how?], 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 [Which is meaningless when considering the idea of an infinite, creator, designer God who understands himself and the universe to infinity].

It isn't meaningless - he may not need to study himself if he knows it all already, but he can still study himself scientifically to check what he is. How can I know that he's part of nature? Well, if he exists, he's part of the system things that exist and which are by definition part of nature. You may object to that definition and try to create some independent realm for God to reside in or to be which is not part of nature, but it would be an artificial divide and demonstrated to be false as soon as you have an interaction between the two systems - interactions between them automatically require them to be part of the same system as they could not have any means of interacting otherwise.

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

If you don't follow the reasoning properly, of course you aren't going to be convinced, but an A.I. system (these are on the way - I'm building one) will determine that God is logically impossible, just as it will determine that "a thing which doesn't exist" is logically impossible.

From here on the quotes are all yours:-

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There was a point to this exercise, and it wasn't to attempt to route your argument at every step. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised, in fact expect, that you will be capable of producing a counter-argument to all my comments above. But that's just the point isn't it? We're discussing something about which we really have no clear knowledge of.

We're discussing something which can actually be ruled out through the application of reasoning. The fact that you can object to reasoned arguments and fail to take them on board does not negate the purpose of demonstrating that God is logically impossible: it merely illustrates why people are incapable of settling such arguments because most of them do not respect reason whenever the argument is complex, even when each step can be shown to be correct and the way they lead into each other can also be shown to be correct - they'll just keep jumping back and forth making invalid objections and claiming it's a draw.

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When you ask me to clearly define God, the question misses the premise of the discussion. If I knew what God was exactly, a being I define abstractly as being infinite, designer and creator, it would really be tantamount to defining in finite terms an infinite being. We can't draw an infintely long line, but we can imagine and discuss the concept of a line of infinite length quite coherently; mathematicians more so than most. The analogue to an equation for a line might be the abstract terms that I've been using all along: an infinite, designer, creator God.

The infinite part isn't a problem - you can have an infinite being if you like, but being infinite won't magically turn it into a God. Your definition, if we take your thread title as a definition, falls short of describing a God that can't just be a natural alien creature. If you are to have a theory of God, you need to add something to it that makes it a theory of something more than a natural creature. You could make up a new word if you like and then make a theory of a thing with that property, but until you define that word and make the thing meaningful, it isn't going to be a theory of any substance.

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But I will entertain the possibility of greator rigor. Let's start simple and get back to the point on design. If God has designed his creation to infinite capacity, then the design should leave its trace on the creation in the form of things like exacting universal constants, emergent/non-reducible systems, etc. I am aware, of course, that most of these are taken as mere incidences of concidence by the mainstream view on science. So going full circle back to my first post, how many such coincidences are needed, in what form, under what assumptions, etc. before the overall-package of data can be scientifically recognized to be potential evidence of intentional design?

It now sounds as if what you want to do is make a statistical judgement as to whether a God (or a natural being) created the universe based on various things about the way the universe works. Now, even if every single factor pointed towards an intelligent designer, it would not tell you whether a God made the universe or if a natural being outside of the universe made it, so you will not be addressing the God question at all.

To address the God question, you need to ask yourself how likely it is that a being could exist as a perfect reasoning machine and with perfect morals and with every other possible kind of perfection without any of that being engineered. The answer is not going to be zero, but it will be beyond astronomically unlikely that such perfection would be the original state of this creature. Intelligence is messy in its design - there is no beautiful symmetry about it, as anyone who has programmed any component of it (in the course of A.I. development) will be able to tell you. It involves a whole stack of complex components which must interact in tightly constrained ways in order to produce sensible output. God would have to be such an information system, and they don't just ping into existence complete or exist from the off without a much more modest beginning.
« Last Edit: 28/01/2012 01:16:46 by David Cooper »
 

Offline namaan

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Have you watched the Zeitgeist Film?...  Well, at least the first one, it now appears as if they've made four.  But, at least the first one discusses religion.

I have, but I skipped the religous section -_- For one thing, I'm not Christian, so criticism of Christianity isn't really relevant. And the more general criticsim of religion I've heard enough times to not find very interesting. But good to know they've made two more than I've watched. Granted, the end of the 2nd one was pretty rediculous. Do I have your recommendation for the 3rd and 4th?

Anyway, if you wish to apply science to God...  Perhaps one should just use the scientific method to analyze the way religion itself works.  What each religion takes from other religions.  The basic meaning of their symbolism.

It might be interesting, but perhaps not so much for me. The 'religion' you speak of and suggest analyzing isn't anything I'm interested in, nor is symbolism as you might be imagining it.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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Wow phillosophy, I've not had this much De Ja Vu since the invasion of the creationists, it's like I'm reading the same hand over and over right down to the same arguments and placid style.

Science must be a religion for these people so they can distort and control it.

I'm so glad I am an independent with my own views. 

My response to the original post although the reading has been enlightning is this: reverse your question and you get the same logical answer.  In other words can religion accept there is no God and only Science?

Now lets move back on to Science and get off the flat sea on the back of a turtle...  8
 

Offline namaan

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Science must be a religion for these people so they can distort and control it.

Thanks for the completely non-contextual post Airthumbs :) (the emoticon is in account for the placid style). Btw, the reverse of the title question is: Can Science be Brought Within the Realm of an Infinite, Designer, Creator God? Which of course is a completely different question from what you suggested.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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I'm sorry about the non contextual input but I was answering your question.  :)  I still believe I have done so, inversely, reversely, however you want.  Science + God = Illogical madness.  Science by definition cannot exist within a framework that includes a fictional character, with no evidence to support it's existence whatsoever.  Only a creationist would ask such an illogical question as they would feel it is rhetorical, in my opinion........    :o
 

Offline David Cooper

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Science + God = Illogical madness.  Science by definition cannot exist within a framework that includes a fictional character, with no evidence to support it's existence whatsoever.  Only a creationist would ask such an illogical question as they would feel it is rhetorical, in my opinion........    :o

I think you're being unfair - it's a fine question to ask, and particularly when it comes from someone whose background is in a religion like Islam which has a holy book that goes to considerable lengths to attempt to impress people with its scientific knowledge and extensive reasoning. I consider it to be the most serious holy book of them all because it doesn't just run away into the realms of magic. If you read it and fail to pick up the many faults, it would be all too easy to end up believing that science and religion are fully compatible, because it repeatedly insists that they are and tries to back up its assertions with lengthy explanations. If you start out by thinking of God as nothing more than a fictional character, of course you're most likely going to see it as an illogical question because you've already made up your mind that there is no God, but that's not going to help anyone who hasn't made up their mind yet or who believes God is real - from their starting point it is not a stupid question at all.
 

Offline namaan

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Namaan, coming into the discussion rather late I misunderstood the point of the thread (I think). I think it is unusual, though not impossible, for a non-believer to apply scientific principles to developing a theory of God. Most people in science have an idea and then try to see whether this idea fits all the known facts and is self consistant. Being human, the effort needed to undertake such a task requires, and reinforces, some degree in belief that the idea is correct. Nonetheless, some scientific approach could be developed to look at concepts from a hypothetical position. Is this what you are expecting?
I'm not exactly a non-believer, but yes, that is more or less what I was expecting.
From my perspective it hard to know where to start. What God are we trying to scientifically justify? Is it a particular one or rather the more general concept of the universe being in the control of an intelligence? I think specific God-qualities, as defined by most religions, fall down when subjected to any scientific study. At least, it seems to me that for most religions, many things that were previously held to be indisputably true have been proved wrong, although a large number of people still believe in the old ideas whilst some are happy to modify their view to fit in with modern interpretations. I would point out the ideas of natural selection versus the idea that God created the world in 6 days a few thousand years ago as one example. I think a staring point would be to pick an example of the features that the God, that we are trying to have the theory about, possesses.
I suppose you could consider it the general concept of God. So you're saying that we need to start by defining God? I think my response to David should be relevant:
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When you ask me to clearly define God, the question misses the premise of the discussion. If I knew what God was exactly, a being I define abstractly as being infinite, designer and creator, it would really be tantamount to defining in finite terms an infinite being. We can't draw an infintely long line, but we can imagine and discuss the concept of a line of infinite length quite coherently; mathematicians more so than most. The analogue to an equation for a line might be the abstract terms that I've been using all along: an infinite, designer, creator God.
I suspect that the abstract God we will end up defining will be so "hands-off" that it would make no material difference whether he exists or not. Such a God may be indiscernable from the natural universe itself.

So the question is what God are we trying to work with?
Avoiding an argument on whether or not it would make a material difference, I will keep the significance of a need for a clear definition in mind, thanks.
« Last Edit: 29/01/2012 03:16:09 by namaan »
 

Offline namaan

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I think you will find the millions who have suffered from religious persecution would not think things have been blown out of proportion.
Are you holding me responsible for crimes done in the name of religion?
I don't wish to be rude, but if this is your opinion, why do you post here?
Can't say I thought about it too much, though I wouldn't reconsider if I had the chance. If I said I think God is correct, let's discuss it, you would have a point. But perhaps I hadn't made it sufficiently clear in the beginning, but the premise of this whole thread was the assumption that an infinite, creator, designer God is real and exists. Given this assumption, my understanding dictates that we are now discussing science, not religion. At least not 'religion' as its typically defined.
Why not go to a forum such as this one, where members are more disposed, nay, perhaps even welcome and revel in such arguments. This is a science forum, pure and simple, not a science vs religion forum.
As much as I try my best to avoid pointless argumentation, I don't need to go to a forum to raise my self esteem with people agreeing with me either.
I have made my choice, nobody, but nobody influenced me in my choice and I am happy with my choice, as I presume you are with your choice. If I had any doubts about my choice, I would seek to address them. I do not impose my choice upon others and respectfully request that they do not impose their choice upon me.

All of us here are capable of making our own decisions. We really don't want or need anyone to try to convert us. Those of us who believe, will doubtless continue to believe, those of us who don't, will continue to disbelieve. Let's just leave it at that.
It's unfortunate that you've reduced me to someone who's here just to try and 'convert' you.
 

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