Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I'm curious to hear from those that believe, unless there is scientific evidence, something cannot exist or be valid.

I have this discussion all the time & again yesterday...the idea that religion lacks scientific foundations (which is emphatically not true..just check out the recent development of this Biblical pool that everyone said was only a metaphor) and, therefore is invalid, seems limited. Aren't we more than science? Isn't everything more than mere science?


Blogger Tony said...

hmm... well I'm assuming we're talking about the existence of God here, or maybe religion in general, but I'll focus on God for a second.

I'll grant you that I cannot disprove the existence of God, but I also cannot disprove the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. It seems to me that without some evidence or rational/logical reason for believing in the existence of God then the argument that relies purely on "faith" amounts to a call for us all to believe in Santa Claus as well. (I apoligize if I am being condescending/snide -I don't really know how better to say it.)

10:52 AM  
Blogger Priscillia said...

Tony Tony Tony,

Come on my friend, you can't think of one way to disprove the existence of santy clause & the easter bunny? I'm sure you could cook up some kind of trap & get those bastards. They may not look like in the story books, but they're there. You may even be one one day..would you not exist at that moment as Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny to someone?

I digress, so, let's take a businessman who gets evidence from his economist that he should reject a particular investment. Businessman says,"I'm going to anyway because I think it will work." Totally irrational..and if the damn thing works, who was the irrational one?

1:08 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Priscillia Priscillia Priscillia (say that three times fast),

Prove to me that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny don't exist. I don't know how to do it. You set some traps, and if they don't exist you won't catch them. (Note: There are ways to prove they do exist, but not the other way around). But not catching them certainly doesn't prove they don't exist: I think you underestimate the cunning of Santa and Bunny! As far as being Santa or Bunny myself I could pretend to be them but I can't be them myself (at least not without some extensive plastic surgery). If I dressed up as George Washington would I have just brought him back to life (in a literal way)? I don't think so.

As far as the second example goes: I think you give far too much credit to economists. But I don't really understand how the example is relevant to what we're talking about. If you could explain a little more I'd appreciate it.

Also, let me say that I don't think you have to prove the existence of God(s) to believe in him/her/it/they. But you should have some good reasons to believe, not just for the sake of believing. A good reason could be a rational/logical argument or simply a strong personal feeling (such as powerful vision) that leads you to believe. I for one have yet to hear a convincing rational/logical argument for God(s) and have had no deep religious experience. Hence, the non-believer attitude.


1:45 PM  
Blogger Priscillia said...


Ahh, I'm getting lost...prove existence, disprove existence, and prove nonexistence. It might be easier to say my name 3 times!:) Maybe I should clear up my question.

First, I completely agree with you that people should play an active role in their understanding of God & not believe (or disbelieve) just because Mom and Dad or church say so.

Second, I think if you do not feel there is a God, it is even more valid than stating rational/logical arguments. This is what I was attempting to describe in the situation of an economist & an entrepreneur. Sometimes a logical/rational test for an idea isn't enought to prove the idea is correct. There needs to be more. Surely if I give you logical/rational reasons to believe in God, you wouldn't be prepared to believe...would you?

3:38 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Ah, clarification! (BTW: I just read over my last comment, and I did a less than stellar job explaining, so no wonder.)

"Sometimes a logical/rational test for an idea isn't enought to prove the idea is correct. There needs to be more. Surely if I give you logical/rational reasons to believe in God, you wouldn't be prepared to believe...would you?"

Actually, if they were convincing I would believe. However, I don't think any such arguments exist (but I can't prove that either, hahah). Now, an argument could be made that doesn't prove the existence of God(s) but makes it very likely that God(s) exists. I think, this would be analagous to your economist/businessman example (the economist had good reason to believe one outcome would happen but the other less-likely outcome occured instead.) And I would find an argument of this sort convincing to the point that I could say "there's a good chance God exists" (maybe I could even assign a probability - right now I'm running with something around p = .05, officially making me agnostic).

If anyone knows of good 'God exists' arguments I'd love to hear them.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Joseph Schultz said...

Don't have the time to look these up, but Thomas Aquinas has three good arguments for the existence of God. And the Oxford short book on an introduction to philosophy has a great argument why you should believe in God, even if God doesn't exist 9Has to do with probabilities and reward/penalties).

I should also note that there isn't a good argument out there (in the way you're difining 'good', which is a deductive definition) for the existence of an objective science either. All we have is a bunch of observations which we induce to mean certain things - not deductive reasoning at all. Arguments for God are on the same par as these arugments.

Ultimately, it comes down to faith - for science or God.

By the way - For all the negative media attention Rational Design has gotten these days, philosophically the argument is equivalent in validity to any arugment in favor of science.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

I should clarify: I'm not arguing that there are not rational arguments for the existence of God - I am saying that I don't think any of them are convincing. I am familiar with Aquinas' "proofs" (I assume you are talking about the Ontological, Cosmological and Telelogical arguments - although I believe Aquinas only came up with the latter two) and for various reasons find them unconvincing as well (too long to go into). As far as Pascal's wager goes - it's certainly an interesting argument but I find it hard to really get behind believing something just because hell is really friggin scary. Seems to me that's why organized religion made hell so damn scary in the first place.

I've heard this argument (about how science is just faith) several times and I totally disagree with it. I have real reasons to believe the dictates of science. My senses have affirmed the laws of physics time and again. Each time I drop a ball it falls to the ground. I feel the force of inertia when I drive and I feel the laws of thermodynamics when I go outside in cold weather. Science seeks to make sense of these observations about the world that we all experience. We can test the laws of science against our observations and we generally find that they hold true. There is strong evidence for science. There is no such evidence for God. Now, you could certainly argue that our senses are garbage and shouldn't be trusted, but I think that is not such an easy argument to make.

I should also say, I am not arguing that we should all be atheists. I think religion is a personal matter and people who believe have lots of good reasons for believing. It's just that I personally don't.

I also disagree with you about the equivalency of Intelligent Design and science for the reasons above.

8:49 PM  
Blogger W. said...

Just a quick note: Aquinas rejected and strongly refuted the ontological argument.

As well, most people rely on the Summa Theologica for an account of Aquinas's arguments for existence of God. It is important to keep in mind that the arguments therein are summaries. The more detailed and fuller argument is in Summa Contra Gentiles, where the arguments are not the well-known five paragraphs but are more like forty or so paragraphs.

Aquinas, as well, would say that his arguments are explanations for God's existence (based on experience and the physical world we are in contact with), for a person who is behind, beneath, within, the cause of, and designer of all that is. He does not suggest that these "proofs" will effect one thereafter to believe in the Christian God.

At the same time, he also says thinking God exists is not an article of faith. Reason can know this claim. In fact, many non- and pre-Christians (not counting Jews) did just that: express an intellectual conviction in the existence of God. Plato, Aristotle, et al.

I do not expect people to read them and then fall down and seek Someone to worship. Rather, they are arguments which if they do nothing else, at least they show some type of rational defense of the claim that God exists.

For me, I find it rather a result of common sense and reflection upon the world to hold that God exists. (I know that can sound loaded, but I will save the explanations and defenses of this point for another day. I am tired. Good night.)

10:09 PM  
Blogger philippe de backer said...

I completely disagree with the previous statement of William, with all due respect. Looking at the world I can find many more reasons NOT to believe in god, then to believe in god.

I am a biologist and just looking at the scientific evidence, (which is more than just inductive reasoning!, predictions about the world by models for instance are made on deductive reasoning), I see no reason to believe in god. We have a pretty good idea about the coming into existence of the world and the universe, we have a pretty good idea about evolution (with no need for design or guidance from outside the natural world), we have a pretty solid basis on consiousness and neurophysiology. We don't know it all of course, and it is an open question to me wether we will know it all someday (Godels theorem...), but science, for me, is the best way and only solid way we know to gain understanding of the world. There is no need for god to explain things in a lot of different research fields, so he has fallen out of the equation...

I find this rather an odd discussion, because I think wether you believe in god or not does not say anything about the way you act in the real world. I think when you look at that, the counts against religion and organized faith far outweigh the arguments pro. So again here is see no reason to bring god back into the equation...

6:35 AM  
Blogger Priscillia said...

I think it is significant because I would argue that people who believe in God or are spiritual, do not base their decisions on what is "rational." Or at least not what pure science kind of folk consider rational. Thus, I would like to see a model of "faith" actors and "rational" actors. (Maybe someone has done this already, but I looked through JSTOR and didn't find anything) Since I think they make decisions based on different criteria, I would like to see who ends up maximizing utility.

Now, that being said, I still think that a theory is a hypothesis that has failed to be rejected, yet. I find no comfort in scientific evidence.

Hey Philippe-I was hoping you would join in because of your biology background. (had a great belgian beer to celebrate finishing my paper---there's some proof that God exists, belgian beer:)

10:09 AM  
Blogger W. said...

Do you know the Belgian beer Chimay? Yep, made by Trappist monks. Yep, men of God. Believers. Perhaps there is a connection. An insight that believers have with regard to the taste of beer and their beliefs??? Hmmm??? Take this in jest, of course.

11:45 AM  
Blogger philippe de backer said...

Great that you are enjoying the belgian beer...

Of course I find it significant if someone is a religious man or not and I follow along your line of reasoning Priscilla, of a divide between religious people and rational people and they basing their choices on something else. It is a bold statement of mine that "someone who believes in god cannot be a classical liberal at the same time", that is: these two claims or labels(being religious or being a classical liberal) cannot be used on the same person. This because a CL believes, in my view, that men are free, rational and dont need to explain his/her actions before god of follows along lines set out by their god. There will be of course times when both categories will feel the same about certain issues (as is the case with CL's and socialists, environmentalists,...)

Who will maximize utility? I dont know? Is there a definition for utility in every case?

And indeed W., Chimay is great, but the best beer of the world is "Delirium tremens", also a Belgian beer, unfortunatly not brewed by monks...Enjoy your beer tonight

12:43 PM  
Blogger See Jay run said...

The classic liberals to whom we owe today's aprreciation of liberty, at least whatever is left of it, were by-and-large Christians; and you can count me as one who believes in the rightness of libety because of its inherent morality and truth, a belief that I faithfully hold although rational thought would suggest that my hope for and belief in limited government and true freedom is quixotic, at best.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Dammit, guys--you just *had* to start this while I was gone on vacation. :)

9:10 PM  
Blogger philippe de backer said...

The notion that liberalism and the development of capitalism is largely because of the protestant beliefs is a fallicy introduced by Weber. The claim has been refuted many times. I should look up some of the literature on that...

This does not mean that religious people cannot come up with or share some of the solutions that are propagated by CL.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Priscillia said...

"a CL believes, in my view, that men are free, rational and dont need to explain his/her actions before god of follows along lines set out by their god."----If I understand you correctly, you believe that man can solve everything? (of course with constraints, such as access to technology & his own intellecutal capacity...but all purely scientific limitations)

This is a short, recent article about scientists & God.

1:09 PM  
Blogger philippe de backer said...

First on the link you submitted. About 30% of people don’t believe in god, the research shows. But I cant find the link to see the whole study. It would be nice to see how many people said that they cannot prove god does not exist, but are inclined to say he does not. What is the share of people in the middle?

I found it strange that they said to expect more natural scientists to believe in god. I don't see why that should be the case, on the contrary.

It also said that "The study would appear to debunk the oft-held notion that science is incompatible with religion." It might just be that researchers would say that in their field of research god has no say or influence.

The debate of intelligent design has hit Europe too. The Dutch secretary of education (a christian democrat) has said that all views should be thought in the science classroom. This has sparked a series of protests of scientists trying to keep intelligent design and creationism out of the science classroom. And with good reason I believe.

I think that we can make a lot of statements about nature without the need to refer to god. There are of course different research domains were we are just gaining knowledge about, f.i. biology. The complexity of the living cell is just getting coped with. The deciphering of the human genome was finished in 2003 and there are a lot more biological molecules involved in the living cell we need to investigate. But we are getting there, step by step, and we have encountered less and less reason to include god into our explanations.

There is a very good book about this, unfortunately it is in dutch. It is called "the atheist manifesto" and it includes tons of reasons and even a logical prove why the only sustainable position towards religion is an atheist one. There is of course the famous quote by B. Russel which I find very true: “It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age, but if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion”

On your question...
I just wanted to say that religion and CL are mutually exclusive categories for me. I don't see how you can state on the one end that all people are rational and responsible for their own choices and the consequences for that and say at the same time that the actions of man and women and the way this earth works and things happen are guided by god. Will men eventually know everything? I don’t know. I also stated the Godel theorem which claimes that only so much can be known about a system you are part of (this is the short and vulgarized version of the theorem). I think that is true and the theorem has been mathematically proven to be correct. I think science and the scientific method are our best shot at gaining knowledge and I think we can go a long way with it in gaining understanding of our world and the creatures that inhabit it.

I think it is the case that all possible insight will come from human knowledge and the need for god and religion will go away. I see the fact that a lot of people in Europe are turning away from religion and god not as a bad thing, but as progress.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Priscillia said...

I thought the exact same thing..why would they think more numbers of natural scientists than social scientists should believe in God? I wish there were more to the article, but it was just a short blurb I thought was interesting because it was on topic.

Do Europeans not believe in God or not have faith in organized religion? I had the impression that it was years of scandal that have pushed people away from organized religion, not God. Obviously, I could be completely off the mark about that so correct me if I am wrong.

"I don't see how you can state on the one end that all people are rational and responsible for their own choices and the consequences for that and say at the same time that the actions of man and women and the way this earth works and things happen are guided by god."----What if God is like your science professor? Teaches, directs, and signals answers, but ultimately finds us responsible for understanding the material. This is how I could best describe being a rational AND spiritual CL. God is a subset of players with information towards understanding why the world works the way it does. I think the case that just because one does not see, hear, smell, taste, or touch God, thus, he does not exist, assumes too much. It assumes that these 5 senses are it and we know they are it. Once we cut ourselves off from the possiblity that we have a spiritual sense, we are unable to access its power to teach us more about the world.

7:21 PM  
Blogger See Jay run said...

Thanks, Priscillia. You said it well.

6:03 AM  

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