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Could A God Really Exist? Should We Err On The Side Of Belief?


Eric333
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Seems sound to me. I fall into the scientific / skeptical mindset and don't believe in God, or more to the point, I am yet to come across an argument for God (or an experience for that matter) that convinces me of God's existence.

 

That said, I've always wondered why there's so much certainty from some atheists that God doesn't exist. I mean we don't know what we don't know, so who's to say that there isn't something to this God stuff that is beyond our present understanding of how things work.

 

By all means I can say that I don't think God exists, but I don't think I can say I know every thing so therefore I know God does not exist in any way, shape, or form.

 

That position doesn't threaten me in any way.

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Eric,

 

Good analysis. I think your conclusion is reasonable:

 

"This theorem thereby suggests the possibility of another dimension of existence which is not governed by the rules of human understanding, known laws, or employable logic; and which is outside the boundaries of length, width, height, depth, and time; as well as outside of currently quantifiable methods of human or mechanical sensory perception."

 

However, doesn't this suggest both the impossibility and possibility of humans being able to determine such an existence? You say "currently quantifiable methods" which implies the possibility in the future.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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Eric,

 

Like George, i also think your conclusion is reasonable from the perspective of the thinking mind. From my subjective experience of no-mind, it is my view that you are correct in your stated conclusion possibility. This no-mind in Christianity, i see as participation in the Kingdom of God which Jesus preached and is present always.

 

Joseph

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PS. In answer to your other question in the thread title..."Should we err on the side of belief?" In my experience, belief is no error but either way one chooses (belief or non-belief) does not offend or matter to Reality/God. Belief is not a requirement for Life. Life exists regardless of belief. Beliefs are temporal and affect choice and events and can change circumstances but in my view, Reality/God requires no such belief either way. God simply IS.

 

Joseph

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This theory appears to have been derived from Kant. I took up reading Kant only recently and have read through his arguments several times. Kant's view is that the rules of logic do not allow for any proof that God exists. But Kant did not stop there. He argued that we might find it practical to argue that God exists and are justified in doing so. In other words, Kant divided "reason" into two parts, one being the "high plain of logic" reserved for philosophers and the other operating in the day-today arena of social beings. This provided Whitehead with one of the foundations for Process and Reality.

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I mean we don't know what we don't know, so who's to say that there isn't something to this God stuff that is beyond our present understanding of how things work. By all means I can say that I don't think God exists, but I don't think I can say I know every thing so therefore I know God does not exist in any way, shape, or form.

 

Thanks for the feedback and thoughts Paul. As you allude to, we honestly cannot prove either way, so I dont understand how Atheists can take the "prove it to me" appraoch in order to even be open minded to the idea that a God could exist.

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However, doesn't this suggest both the impossibility and possibility of humans being able to determine such an existence? You say "currently quantifiable methods" which implies the possibility in the future.

 

Thanks George. I guess to your point, I am leaving the possibility open that we have yet to evolve to the point where we can grasp these possibilities, so maybe in a million years (or tomorrow) we can evolve enough to be able to identify (or experience) these other possibilities.

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PS. In answer to your other question in the thread title..."Should we err on the side of belief?" In my experience, belief is no error but either way one chooses (belief or non-belief) does not offend or matter to Reality/God. Belief is not a requirement for Life. Life exists regardless of belief. Beliefs are temporal and affect choice and events and can change circumstances but in my view, Reality/God requires no such belief either way. God simply IS.

 

Joseph

 

Great point Joseph. I have a good friend who says Belief Systems can best be explained by their initials (i.e., BS :-)

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He argued that we might find it practical to argue that God exists and are justified in doing so. In other words, Kant divided "reason" into two parts, one being the "high plain of logic" reserved for philosophers and the other operating in the day-today arena of social beings.

 

Thanks for the response Minsocal. Kant has always been a challenge to me, but I guess I have been trying to combine the two parts you mentioned, do you think that's possible? (i.e., extreme logic in laymans terms?)

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Eric, that's an interesting article and I found it challenging both in what I understood of it and what I didn't understand (my limitations). :lol:

 

I think Christianity, as a whole, needs to begin its "God-talk" again. The Barna group says that one of the major reasons that people are leaving mainline Christianity is because mainline Christians no longer affirm the reality of God. Marcus Borg writes, "Churches that are full of God are full of people."

 

For me, I don't talk much about my "beliefs" in God. I'd rather talk about my experiences of God. Beliefs, to me, attempt to point to something objective that should be given mental assent. Experiences, on the other hand, attempt to describe something subjective that, while not denying some mental understanding, go to the depths of who we are and how we see reality. We believe in beliefs. We own experiences, they become part of us.

 

This makes me hesitant to speak of "proof" of God. To me, "proof" attempts to squeeze God down into our human-created boxes. I'd rather speak of evidences. My reasoning would go something like this: God doesn't fit into our epistomological category of the scientific method any more than things such as consciousness, the mind, or love do. But we can, through observation, see the effects of God's presence in the universe. One of the effects that we see, we could call "pattern". There is order rather than chaos to the universe, to existence. There seem to be "building blocks" to creation, which seem to lead from energy to matter. This matter has somehow resulted in what we call life. Matter has developed a way to respond to its environment and to change itself and its environment. Life changes, it grows, it reproduces. Furthermore, in some life, consciousness has arisen. We can't yet speak for the whole universe, but we know of at least one planet where life has followed a pattern which has resulted in consciousness, in self-awareness. The point of this is that the creation has lead to something "god-like", something in the image of God. There is consciousness and mind that, while not physical, is very real, very much in existence. Granted, consciousness and mind depend upon the physical brain, but they also seem to transcend it. Physicality has somehow been translated into a thinking, feeling, willing, and acting being. Is this all by chance?

 

Further evidence to consider the reality of God is that consciousness recognizes right from wrong and perceives beauty. And it seems to do this all on its own. With few exceptions, we seem to inherently recognize what is right. This implies that there is More than just our own subjective sense of right and wrong at work.

 

Building on this, most of us believe that character is important. We just seem to know that it is better for a person to attain wholeness and maturity. And we seem to know that love works better for attaining good character than hate. Something in us recognizes this wholeness, this greatness of soul, this good character, whether in ourselves or in others, and we applaud it. Again, is this all by chance?

 

Granted, we can say that all of this can be explained by natural law or by chance or by evolution, and insist that there is nothing More behind any of it. But many people feel, and experience, another Force or Reality or a More behind all of this and believe that all of this is evidence for the idea of God. Not proof, but evidence worth considering; for many, worth believing; and for some, worth experiencing. So I find that while I can talk about my beliefs in God or my beliefs in the concept of love, I would much rather speak of my experiences of God or my experiences of love.

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With few exceptions, we seem to inherently recognize what is right. This implies that there is More than just our own subjective sense of right and wrong at work.

 

Bill,

 

We do inherently recognize right and wrong. But, this is the product of evolution. People who were not genetically endowed to be social didn't last very long to reproduce their genes. Those who were so wired, did. So, we developed into a social (eusocial as E. O. Wilson describes it) animal. Now, is evolution a divinely-designed process? I don't know, maybe it is.

 

I heard an interview with a prominent scientist (and believer) several years ago. He pointed out that the one minor variation in the formula for gravity and the universe would either immediately collapse or explode. He found God in the order (which you mention) of the universe, the processes, the laws of nature.

 

George

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We do inherently recognize right and wrong. But, this is the product of evolution. People who were not genetically endowed to be social didn't last very long to reproduce their genes. Those who were so wired, did. So, we developed into a social (eusocial as E. O. Wilson describes it) animal.

 

I agree, George. It is evolution - change, growth, maturation - that has given us this. I'm not a literal creationist.

 

Now, is evolution a divinely-designed process? I don't know, maybe it is.

 

I don't know (in an objective way), either. We can't rerun the test, can we? But, as I've mentioned, I think there is evidence worth considering.

 

BTW, George, do you have the name of that prominent scientist? I recall something of his statement also, but I don't recall who it was or where I heard it.

 

While not denying the reality of the physical universe (ha ha!), I think there is evidence within the physical universe that points to another layer (or more) of reality. I don't like to call it "supernatural" because most ideas of the supernatural have to do with breaking the laws of the physical universe and I just don't think God does that (my opinion). So I guess a "spirit" layer would be an okay term for me. But my point is that some look at the physical and say that this is all there is, and some look and say that there is something More. I fall into the More camp. :) But "proof" works better for understanding the physical layer and experience works better for understanding the spiritual layer, imo.

 

Bill

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I heard an interview with a prominent scientist (and believer) several years ago. He pointed out that the one minor variation in the formula for gravity and the universe would either immediately collapse or explode. He found God in the order (which you mention) of the universe, the processes, the laws of nature.

 

George

 

Or it could be that one minor variation to the forumula of gravity and there would be no gravity, and subsequently no universe, at least in the fashion that we are familiar with. To me the fact that we have determined an understanding of how parts of the universe works, doesn't mean that the universe couldn't have turned out a different way, or not even at all, if these things we call 'laws' actually didn't exist in the first place. Kinda like a chicken or egg problem.

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BTW, George, do you have the name of that prominent scientist? I recall something of his statement also, but I don't recall who it was or where I heard it.

 

Hmm. Maybe it was Francis Collins the head of the Human Genome Project. I remember hearing it in a NPR podcast interview, probably Fresh Air or Diane Rehms.

 

BTW, I like your thought about "supernatural." I think the word has acquired a negative connotation associated with superstition, backwardness, ignorance, etc. Maybe the idea, used by Eric, of 'another dimension' would be better.

 

FWIW, I think of the idea of a divine creator as an abstract theory to explain the existence of the universe. Alternative theories are equally abstract and lacking in empirical evidence (or logic as Eric pointed out).

 

George

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Or it could be that one minor variation to the forumula of gravity and there would be no gravity, and subsequently no universe, at least in the fashion that we are familiar with.

 

I think his point is that with the infinite number of variations, the one that occurred works. To think that this is the result of random chance is a stretch for many human minds.

 

George

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Hmm. Maybe it was Francis Collins the head of the Human Genome Project. I remember hearing it in a NPR podcast interview, probably Fresh Air or Diane Rehms.

 

Ah, yes, that sounds about right. As I recall, Francis was a devout, "arguing" atheist for most of his life. In the last few years, he became a deist. I hope it wasn't just because he was "cramming for finals", but one never knows! :) Christians badly wanted to claim him as one of their own, but while he felt there was evidence for a Mind or Designer behind the universe, he couldn't accept all of the "supernatural" stuff that tends to go along with a more literalist Christianity (walking on water, virgins giving birth, resuscitation after 3 days of death, multiplying loaves and fishes, etc.).

 

Bill

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I think his point is that with the infinite number of variations, the one that occurred works. To think that this is the result of random chance is a stretch for many human minds.

 

George

 

What variations might he be referring to George? As far as I'm aware, we only have one understanding of gravity. Perhaps there are several other types of 'gravity' that don't reflect what we undersatnd as the law of gravity at all. We can't know anything that we don't know. Of cousre the one we know works, otherwise we probably wouldn't be here.

 

Also, why consider it a random chance? It seems to me that the chances of gravity forming the known universe are 100% with what we know about gravity and how it effects celestial matter.

 

Again, because it is all that we know, we think we have made it through some remarkable odds to be here. For all we know, what we know could actually be a huge stuff up and beyond our universe there are different laws that make life something we can't even imagine. Then again, maybe not.

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What variations might he be referring to George? As far as I'm aware, we only have one understanding of gravity.

 

Variation in the formula (whatever it may be). Hypothetically, instead of G = 1.222222222X + 3.444444444Y, a variation might be G = 1.222222223X + 3.444444444Y.

 

George

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Variation in the formula (whatever it may be). Hypothetically, instead of G = 1.222222222X + 3.444444444Y, a variation might be G = 1.222222223X + 3.444444444Y.

 

George

 

I understand it's a hypothetical, but I have no idea how on earth anyone could calculate a formula based on no knowledge of any other 'laws' beyond what we currently know.

 

How can we say 'the chances of the laws of the universe being X are 123, when we have absolutely no idea if there is a Y or a Z when it comes to laws of universes?

 

 

Edited by PaulS
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How can we say 'the chances of the laws of the universe being X are 123, when we have absolutely no idea if there is a Y or a Z when it comes to laws of universes?

 

A higher intelligence? Another dimension?

 

Paul, I don't know. I am a committed agnostic leaning toward some sort of intentional structure as opposed to random chance.

 

George

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I am a committed agnostic leaning toward some sort of intentional structure as opposed to random chance.

George

 

And that's fair enough, George.

 

I don't lean towards some sort of intentional structure, yet neither do I do I regard 'this' as random chance.

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Here is an excerpt from a TIME interview with Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins. I have edited it for brevity:

 

TIME: Dr. Collins, you believe that science is compatible with Christian faith.

 

COLLINS: Yes. God's existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in.

 

TIME: Stephen Jay Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, famously argued that religion and science can coexist, because they occupy separate, airtight boxes. You both seem to disagree.

 

COLLINS: Gould sets up an artificial wall between the two worldviews that doesn't exist in my life. Because I do believe in God's creative power in having brought it all into being in the first place, I find that studying the natural world is an opportunity to observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God's creation.

 

COLLINS: By being outside of nature, God is also outside of space and time. Hence, at the moment of the creation of the universe, God could also have activated evolution, with full knowledge of how it would turn out, perhaps even including our having this conversation. The idea that he could both foresee the future and also give us spirit and free will to carry out our own desires becomes entirely acceptable.

 

TIME: Both your books [Dawkin's and Collins'] suggest that if the universal constants, the six or more characteristics of our universe, had varied at all, it would have made life impossible. Dr. Collins, can you provide an example?

 

COLLINS: The gravitational constant, if it were off by one part in a hundred million million, then the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang would not have occurred in the fashion that was necessary for life to occur. When you look at that evidence, it is very difficult to adopt the view that this was just chance. But if you are willing to consider the possibility of a designer, this becomes a rather plausible explanation for what is otherwise an exceedingly improbable event--namely, our existence.

 

DAWKINS: People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable. Physicists have come up with other explanations. One is to say that these six constants are not free to vary. Some unified theory will eventually show that they are as locked in as the circumference and the diameter of a circle. That reduces the odds of them all independently just happening to fit the bill. The other way is the multiverse way. That says that maybe the universe we are in is one of a very large number of universes. The vast majority will not contain life because they have the wrong gravitational constant or the wrong this constant or that constant. But as the number of universes climbs, the odds mount that a tiny minority of universes will have the right fine-tuning.

 

COLLINS: This is an interesting choice. Barring a theoretical resolution, which I think is unlikely, you either have to say there are zillions of parallel universes out there that we can't observe at present or you have to say there was a plan. I actually find the argument of the existence of a God who did the planning more compelling than the bubbling of all these multiverses. So Occam's razor--Occam says you should choose the explanation that is most simple and straightforward--leads me more to believe in God than in the multiverse, which seems quite a stretch of the imagination.

 

DAWKINS: I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine. What I can't understand is why you invoke improbability and yet you will not admit that you're shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God.

 

COLLINS: My God is not improbable to me. He has no need of a creation story for himself or to be fine-tuned by something else. God is the answer to all of those "How must it have come to be" questions.

 

DAWKINS: I think that's the mother and father of all cop-outs. It's an honest scientific quest to discover where this apparent improbability comes from. Now Dr. Collins says, "Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this." Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don't do that. Scientists say, "We're working on it. We're struggling to understand."

 

COLLINS: Certainly science should continue to see whether we can find evidence for multiverses that might explain why our own universe seems to be so finely tuned. But I do object to the assumption that anything that might be outside of nature is ruled out of the conversation. That's an impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as "Why am I here?", "What happens after we die?", "Is there a God?" If you refuse to acknowledge their appropriateness, you end up with a zero probability of God after examining the natural world because it doesn't convince you on a proof basis. But if your mind is open about whether God might exist, you can point to aspects of the universe that are consistent with that conclusion.

 

DAWKINS: To me, the right approach is to say we are profoundly ignorant of these matters. We need to work on them. But to suddenly say the answer is God--it's that that seems to me to close off the discussion.

 

TIME: Could the answer be God?

 

DAWKINS: There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

 

COLLINS: That's God.

 

BILL: The full interview can be found here: http://richarddawkin...francis-collins

Edited by Wayseeker
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I'd have to say that Dawkins is making the same point that I was trying to - just because we can't understand it being any other way, doesn't mean that it couldn't be any other way. Seems to me Dawkins is allowing for the unknown yet Collins has already determined that that unknown, whatever it may be, has to be God.

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Seems to me Dawkins is allowing for the unknown yet Collins has already determined that that unknown, whatever it may be, has to be God.

 

Could be, Paul.

 

To me, I think Dawkins' point is that if there is a More (something beyond just the physical, material universe), yes, it is unknown and unknowable. Therefore, it is, from a practical point of view, irrelevant and not worth speaking about. End of subject. :)

 

Collins' point, which might be shared by many mystics, is that while the More cannot be completely known (comprehended), it can be experienced. And, yes, those who experience often define it as God (or any of a number of different names found in other religions which point to Higher Consciousness, the Sacred, the Transcendant).

 

A rather simplistic (and perhaps shallow) argument can be made for love. Love is not an object in this physical, material universe. There is no scientific proof for it. Would Dawkins therefore conclude that love does not exist, having no verifiable proof? Others, though, would say that although love is certainly not an object, it is nonetheless real. It is subjective, it is an experience. Although there is no one definition for it, it is recognized as a reality and there is some agreement as to what love is and is not. To deny the existence of love because there is no objective, scientific proof of it is, imo, a category mistake. Mr. Dawkins' point, if I understand it from his books, is that if it isn't a physical, material reality, then it doesn't exist because the physical, material reality is the *only* reality that there is. How can Dawkins prove his assertion? Humanity has always, as far as we know, insisted that there is another reality that, while not being fully known, can be experienced.

 

Granted, the Bible anthropomorphizes God, tries to compress God down into the physical universe. God is spoken of as having eyes, a nose, arms, a heart, etc. It is natural for us to want to create God in our image. And I suspect that it is mainly those images of God that Dawkins is against (though I have never personally met or heard the man). I'm generally against those kinds of images also. Maybe Collins is a bit too quick to claim the transcendant to be God, but I find Dawkins' assertion, that if there is a More it is completely unknowable, to be religiously ignorant.

 

Bill

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