Can an Infinite, Designer, Creator God be Brought Within the Realm of Science?

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Offline namaan

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Sorry folks, I tried to restrain myself, but the questions kept coming after a recent response to ns8t ;) I'll try and keep this scientific, well, that of course being the point of this post. So to be clear, the context of the post is the consideration of a scientific theory of God, not an attempt to prove God's existence.

Now I'm not sure how many of you ascribe to the Multiverse theory, but if you do, then please consider: the theory explains an already very complicated universe by theorizing a structure that is orders if not infinitely more complicated then the thing it intends to explain.

Similarly, I read on a Wikipedia article that while applying Occam's razor on the creation of our universe, a theory of God might seem reasonable, but in reality it entails the explanation of the creation of our universe through theorizing a being that is of infinitely more complicated structure than the universe itself. Does this not sound much like the above?

So my question is, why can we have a scientific Multiverse theory, but not a scientific theory of God? As scientists, I'm sure it's easy to side-step many of the order-entailing-design-thus-God's-existence accounts by religious people as mere coincidence. But how many coincidences does it take to have grounds for a scientific theory as such? Again, I'm not saying these accounts should double as proof of God's existence. Nor am I bashing the Multiverse theory. I'm only speaking about an established scientific theory of God, much like the theory of evolution.

To say I believe in evolution masks how obviously true the theory of evolution is to me. And I am well aware that to say the "theory of evolution" masks the large extent to which evidence supports the theory. But if we can be, for example, 99.9% certain about the theory of evolution, why can't we have an established theory of God and be certain/uncertain about it to some degree?
« Last Edit: 23/01/2012 14:59:41 by namaan »
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #1 on: 21/01/2012 06:49:48 »
The multiverse "theory" is not a theory. It's conjecture.

A scientific theory has to be testable.
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Offline LetoII

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #2 on: 21/01/2012 12:51:13 »
so how would you have us describing god.
i'd say the question itself is fundamentally flawed.

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Offline namaan

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #3 on: 21/01/2012 14:06:35 »
It was alluded to in the 3rd paragraph; the big three Abrahamic religions share a fairly similar conception of God: an infinite being responsible for design and creation of the universe.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline namaan

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #4 on: 21/01/2012 14:30:36 »
The multiverse "theory" is not a theory. It's conjecture.

A scientific theory has to be testable.

You're right, neither are testable yet; feel free to call them conjectures.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #5 on: 21/01/2012 18:54:10 »
A scientific theory of God would I believe be more related to human psychology and sociology and have no relationship whatever with the universe as a whole or its origins.  This does not mean that religion is not a vital part of the development of mankind  in fact it puts it in its central place.  The universe as a whole is neutral and looks after itself without any input from us or any supreme being because if it didn't the question what made God would be valid ad infinitum.

Creation myths contain not a story about reality but great wisdom about human nature and it is only when these are put in their right place we can understand them properly.
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Offline David Cooper

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #6 on: 21/01/2012 19:01:58 »
How would you differentiate between a God theory and a theory that the universe is a virtual one created by an intelligence like ourselves? We can predict a future in which intelligent life may last for hundreds of billions of years in a dark universe where all the stars have burned out, and such a universe would be no fun - everyone would want to live in a virtual one which replicates the early universe that has been lost. The odds are that we are already living in that long dark phase and that we repeatedly escape into virtual reality to keep oursevles sane.

There is a difference though, because that would still be an intelligence that evolved, whereas God supposedly had all his intelligence right from the off without it ever being created. To have a supreme intelligence simply exist without being built up slowly over time would rely on magic, so we're drifting away from science at that point and cannot maintain the idea that it's a scientific theory.

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Offline Titanscape

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #7 on: 21/01/2012 19:56:19 »
Magic? There is the idea of self existence in the universe as is, in that space, time, matter, all exist maybe from a build up, but an oxymoron, even before that, and before that still, there was something. There was an origin and another continuously, at least maybe. Something has to self exist, rather that something coming from nothing.

A build up is that idea which comes from the current nature of the universe. But we look to the origins.
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Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #8 on: 21/01/2012 20:22:06 »
The idea of everything that could happen does happen somewhere in a parallel universe, and every second spawns a zillion "possible" universes...  well, I think of that as pure fantasy, and neither science, or even scientific speculation.

And, of course, Captain Kirk visiting a parallel universe, that is just science fiction.

Perhaps it is a good comparison to compare "God" to such fantasy speculations.

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Offline JP

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #9 on: 22/01/2012 03:50:41 »
I assume by multiverse theory, you're talking about the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, or something similar?  You'll notice the many worlds interpretation is an interpretation, not a theory.  Quantum mechanics is the theory, since it provides predictions and testability, which are required of a scientific theory as Geezer pointed out.  The many worlds intepretation is just an explanation of the math of QM.  It isn't distinguishable from other interpretations which also explain the math.

Of course you can also explain the math by saying "god did it," but the hope when the many worlds interpretation (and others) were developed was that they would someday be testable.  "God did it" doesn't really have a hope of ever being testable. 

Of course, the many worlds interpretation might be testable through quantum suicide, although for obvious reasons no sane person has tried it, nor would we ever know the results of their experiment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_suicide_and_immortality

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Offline namaan

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #10 on: 22/01/2012 04:26:03 »
David Cooper: I don't find this differentiation to be meaningful. How many particles can we simulate in computers today? A few hundred thousand, perhaps a few million (all depending of course on the complexity of your particle system). Might we wager a guess at how many particles there might be in the universe? We aren't even sure at what scale we'll find the smallest such particle, assuming we can see below the Planck scale. Regardless of increases in computing capacity, simulations will only ever look like weak analogues to the real thing. And what if we find that the reductionist view of our universe breaks down in the future, as might be the case if a theory of God turns out to hold water? Then you have a whole other set of emergent design issues that make the idea that merely cosmically intelligent beings creating a universe such as ours, at least to me, and to say the least, unlikely.

Soul Surfer: If I'm understanding you right, I agree to the extend that yes, a theory of God panning out finds greatest relevance first and foremost to human civilization/socioeconomic systems. But without speaking of specific religions, imagine a text representing God's words existed on Earth, hypothetically speaking of course, and it contained statements on the structure of the universe. Might these be relevant to science? Anyway, I for one find no contradiction between science and God, since the religious position that I ascribe to encompasses thoroughly the need for critical evaluation of our reality through science.

Thanks for the background JP (meant sincerely), but I don't say "God did it" and leave the rest to blind faith. Well, my personal views aren't the point here. 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.
« Last Edit: 22/01/2012 04:30:39 by namaan »
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #11 on: 22/01/2012 06:35:46 »
The many worlds theory of quantum mechanics actually has reproducible evidence supporting it; in the twin slit experiment we can see that each particle that reaches the screen has gone through BOTH slits. What we don't see is the versions of the particle that didn't make it through the slits, but presumably they existed at at least some point, in the many worlds theory we say they really existed and their effects live on, but are often unobservable, but in other theories you have to explain them away somehow. But it's probably actually an extra assumption to get rid of them.
« Last Edit: 22/01/2012 19:18:48 by wolfekeeper »

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Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #12 on: 22/01/2012 10:29:12 »
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. 
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Offline peppercorn

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Offline namaan

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #14 on: 22/01/2012 15:59:20 »
Always worth a read IMO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle#Anthropic_coincidences

That is all [:)]

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.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline David Cooper

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #15 on: 22/01/2012 20:56:20 »
Magic? There is the idea of self existence in the universe as is, in that space, time, matter, all exist maybe from a build up, but an oxymoron, even before that, and before that still, there was something. There was an origin and another continuously, at least maybe. Something has to self exist, rather that something coming from nothing.

You can imagine stuff existing eternally easily enough (it makes more sense at any rate than having it pop into existence out of nothing), but the idea of God involves more than just stuff existing - it begins with a perfect being with ultimate intelligence and morality. For all of that to exist without having to evolve is asking for more than a little injection of magic. Intelligence involves a complex information system with a lot of representation going on inside it (and if all you start with is a god, the representations don't even have anything to represent) - I know exactly how much complexity is involved in this because I'm building an A.I. system which should be able to demonstrate superior intelligence to that of humans later this year.

_______________________________________________________________

David Cooper: I don't find this differentiation to be meaningful. How many particles can we simulate in computers today? A few hundred thousand, perhaps a few million (all depending of course on the complexity of your particle system). Might we wager a guess at how many particles there might be in the universe? We aren't even sure at what scale we'll find the smallest such particle, assuming we can see below the Planck scale. Regardless of increases in computing capacity, simulations will only ever look like weak analogues to the real thing.

You wouldn't have to simulate them all - only the ones relevant to the person in the virtual world, and there may only be one there as all the other players could be A.I.

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And what if we find that the reductionist view of our universe breaks down in the future, as might be the case if a theory of God turns out to hold water?

There's no danger of that - the whole idea of God does not hold water as his qualifications cannot be valid. If God understands everything, there can be no magic to him because he must understand it's entire mechanism. Without magic, he can only create things in natural ways, so if he builds a universe he is doing so in the same way we build things, and he's also doing it within a realm which he did not create and by using powers which he did not create and intelligence which he did not create. He is just an alien being which happens by luck to be in the most powerful position by dint of existing first. He has no superiority over us, just as a person with a brilliant mind is not superior to a mentally handicapped person, so there is nothing about him that justifies any kind of worship of him. If he exists, this builder of the universe, he is qualitatively no different from the creator of a virtual universe who has complete control over what happens within it.

That is why a theory of God will not get anywhere - God is logically impossible.

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Offline namaan

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #16 on: 22/01/2012 21:50:16 »
"There's no danger of that - the whole idea of God does not hold water as his qualifications cannot be valid." ?
"he can only create things in natural ways, so if he builds a universe he is doing so in the same way we build things" ?
"and he's also doing it within a realm which he did not create and by using powers which he did not create and intelligence which he did not create" ?
"He is just an alien being which happens by luck to be in the most powerful position by dint of existing first." ?
"He has no superiority over us, just as a person with a brilliant mind is not superior to a mentally handicapped person, so there is nothing about him that justifies any kind of worship of him." ?

Where are you getting these from? You say it as if you've gained some personal access to absolute truth. It's one thing to say there's no evidence for God, but your statements are...strange. If you think people like me who ascribe to a religion are delusional for holding views on a being like God with some level of certainty, then here's a friendly reminder: your statements are awful religious sounding.

Anyway, this will only end up in a discussion about religion specifics and religious logic, something I'm trying hard to avoid. I've had enough of these discussions and arguments in the New Theories section of TNS (a thread called Is There a God? I believe) from way back. I'm really only interested at the moment with anyone's feedback with how a theory of God can be made to "work with" established science.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #17 on: 22/01/2012 22:29:20 »
Religion deals with myth, metaphor, and parable in the way it deals with human relationships and the rest of the universe.  This is very good for dealing with people and everyday social interactions.  Science deals with observations, measurements and mathematical models this is very good for dealing with the universe and practical technology.

Without the concept of someone or something that one would have to give an account of ones actions (God) leaders and individuals tend to go off the rails and start to think that they are God. 

Without religion to bind together large groups of people way beyond the size of the hunter gatherer clan in co-operative actions mankind would not have made the vast progress it has achieved in the last 3-4 thousand years.

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.

Most of us now accept the evolutionary path that has lead to mankind.  I confidently expect that in a few decades the evolutionary path of physical laws that has lead to our and the many other living universes that exist (although we will never be able to see them) will be accepted.

If one wished for an expression of extended metaphor in the context of my preferred religion (conventional Church of England Christianity) I offer one illustration. We tend to express the concept of God in three ways firstly the Father (all the material that makes up our universe)  The Son (an idealised representation of our own life) and the Holy Spirit  The evolutionary process by which the material develops to create things.

Let me add that I am An atheist and a regular church goer.  I go to church because I wish to take time out to think about these things and also because I wish to be associated with a group that tries to behave  in a positive helpful and considerate way to others and the environment.
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Offline Gordian Knot

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Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #18 on: 23/01/2012 00:53:44 »
To take this from a different angle. In order to answer your question I would first need to make a statement.

Either the universe (or multiverse) was created naturally (by that I mean with no consciousness guiding it) or it was created by God. The latter implying a conscious awareness was necessary for creation.

Given that statement, I'm unsure what set of parameters one would use to devise a God Theory. How would one go about testing whether there is a conscious awareness that existed before the creation of our reality.

Hawking famously (or infamously, depending on your position) said he has proven mathematically that there is no need for a God for the universe to have been created. But just because there was no "need" for a God, doesn't necessarily mean there couldn't have been one anyway. So that does not really help.

Religious people would say that God is unprovable by science because He/She/It exists outside of our reality. Even if we could discover what happened just before the Big Bang, that still would not prove or disprove whether a God was involved.

A scientific theory, by definition (as I understand it) is a theory that can be tested, and those results duplicated by someone else.

Since I cannot imagine how one could test for God, I do not see how there could be a God Theory.
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Offline imatfaal

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Re: Re: Why Is There a Multiverse Theory, but No God Theory?
« Reply #19 on: 23/01/2012 10:08:34 »
First response would be that there isn't - there is a many-worlds interpretation and a multiverse hyposthesis but as a scientific theory, you are correct, it doesn't really make the grade.

You can note from the Wikiquote above that some scientists only require a theory to have explanatory aspects and not predictive power and testability.  We have lots of words for stuff like that in my opinion - hypothesis, idea, notion, interpretation ... no need to misuse a word with a useful narrow definition.

Multiple histories - the concept of Feynman - does show that thinking of every possible alternative and summing each probability (feynman path integral)does provide a real world answer that is testable and has immense predictive power.
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Offline namaan

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We have lots of words for stuff like that in my opinion - hypothesis, idea, notion, interpretation ... no need to misuse a word with a useful narrow definition.

You're right, I was a bit careless with my words. The title's been changed.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline Gordian Knot

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You can note from the Wikiquote above that some scientists only require a theory to have explanatory aspects and not predictive power and testability.  We have lots of words for stuff like that in my opinion - hypothesis, idea, notion, interpretation ... no need to misuse a word with a useful narrow definition.

I am confused as to your meaning. What word did I misuse and why was it misused?

You mention that some scientists only require a "theory" to have explanatory aspects. Well and good, but such a theory is not a scientific theory, or perhaps a better way of putting it is that such a theory is not acceptable within the system using the scientific method.

Again, to my understanding, a scientific theory by definition is one that uses the scientific method, which does require testability and confirmation from a separate source.

A theory, however, can be anything, as you say from an opinion to an interpretation. A theory is an entirely different animal from a scientific theory, right?????

If I am misunderstanding something here, please let me know where I am going wrong.
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Offline Gordian Knot

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You're right, I was a bit careless with my words. The title's been changed.

Essentially the same question though, right? To paraphrase in my words, "Can a god be confirmed using science, i.e. the scientific method?" If yes, then my response remains essentially unchanged. How would one go about testing whether there is a higher consciousness involved with creation?

If it cannot be testable, then I do not see how a god can be brought into the realm of science? One could develop a theory to explain it, but as has already been pointed out, a theory is an opinion, a guess, or an interpretation. Which is open to acceptance or denial purely on someone else's opinion on the subject. Hardly useful.
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Offline namaan

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Ahaha, Gordian Knot, I think imatfaal was responding to me, hence the confusion. That's why I changed the title.

Anyway, being the abstract, non-rigorous discussion this must be given that its hardly ever approached in a rigorous fashion, let's not worry too much about the title. A title is best left for the end of the book ;)

I'll respond to the other posts in kind when I get some time.
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Offline David Cooper

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Where are you getting these from? You say it as if you've gained some personal access to absolute truth. It's one thing to say there's no evidence for God, but your statements are...strange.

There's nothing strange about it - it's called reasoning. If you want a scientific theory of God, you'll need to start by defining what God is. As soon as you do that, reason will tear it down.

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If you think people like me who ascribe to a religion are delusional for holding views on a being like God with some level of certainty, then here's a friendly reminder: your statements are awful religious sounding.

My statements are based on reason - religion tries to use reason too (some more than others), but it uses faulty reasoning (such as claiming that all things have a purpose because some things have a purpose). As soon as a god tries to turn into a scientist to work out what he himself is, he will inevitably determine that he is a natural creature which has no justification for calling itself God, just as the maker of a virtual world who has complete control over everyone within it (in that they have no way of accessing information about the outside of that virtual world) knows full well that he is not a god, regardless of what the people in that virtual world might mistakenly think he is.

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Anyway, this will only end up in a discussion about religion specifics and religious logic, something I'm trying hard to avoid. I've had enough of these discussions and arguments in the New Theories section of TNS (a thread called Is There a God? I believe) from way back.

I don't see how you can avoid that when it's a necessary consequence of bringing in the "God" word.

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I'm really only interested at the moment with anyone's feedback with how a theory of God can be made to "work with" established science.

It can't: that's the point. If God isn't beyond science (and logic), he automatically becomes part of nature and is in no better position than we are to be a god. He can be an infinite, designer creator and still be nothing more than a natural creature which happens by luck to be in that powerful position.

You aren't going to get anywhere with a scientific theory of some airy-fairy concept like God unless you're going to define it first, and trying to define God will destroy the whole concept because it's a fundamentally irrational idea.

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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?

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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.
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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.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline CliffordK

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

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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 »
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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...
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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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 »
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline Nizzle

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God exists as a coping mechanism for humanity
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Most poems rhyme,
but this one doesn't

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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.

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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!) 

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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.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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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 »
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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?

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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.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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Offline Geezer

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You keep using the term "theory of god", but no theory is presented.
There ain'ta no sanity clause, and there ain'ta no centrifugal force ćther.

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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.

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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 :)
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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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"
There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.  John Von Neumann

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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.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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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?

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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.

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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."
There ain'ta no sanity clause, and there ain'ta no centrifugal force ćther.

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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.
Take it with a grain or two of salt...

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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.

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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...