Religion

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mpolo
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Re: Religion

Postby mpolo » Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:01 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:I guess that brings me to an excellent logical point that damages Christianity.

Why would an omnibenevolent God create a world where millions of religions could exist, then damn the people who choose the wrong one? Seems a bit dickish. Doom entire societies who believe in the same morals and follow almost but not quite the same god. That's such a nice thing to do!

"Sorry, you're a Jew, you don't believe I sent my son to earth, down you go!"
"Sorry, you're a Muslim, you believe an Arabic version of events told by some Mohammed guy. Down you go!"
"Sorry, you're a Mormon, you're just stupid. Seriously, why would a religion that involves north america only show up when you guys discover north america? Maybe because IT'S FREAKING MADE UP? Down you go!"
"Sorry, you're a scientist, you don't believe anything unless it makes sense. Down you go!"


At least the standard teaching (Vatican II) of the Catholic Church wouldn't hold this. Lumen Gentium specifically says that "men of good will" are part of the People of God and can be saved. Furthermore, in non-Christian religions, saving elements are found (semina verbi). While the Catholic Church possesses the complete array of means to salvation, and all persons who are saved are saved at least indirectly through the Church (Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus), it is perfectly possible, even for an atheist to be saved.
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Nath
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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby Nath » Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:18 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:I'm not sure we can say that without a reasonable doubt (for starters, you probably don't want to say 'observable universe', there's no reason to suspect that God is observable, and talking about the 'observable universe' implies the 'cosmos' anyway, since the observable universe is just everything inside our light-cone, and events prior to and including the big bang certainly are outside our light-cone and therefore unobservable.)

By 'observable universe', I mean 'everything that could potentially interact with us' (our light-cone, as you say). If god isn't observable, then he could have had no detectable effect on us. This means he couldn't have created anything in the known universe.

EdgarJPublius wrote:I don't know, and you don't know. and Arguing about which is true is pointless until we get a better idea of the origins of the 'infinite' universe, which may never happen.

People's ideas about the origins and early history of the universe do influence the way they act today. This makes it worth examining the various possibilities, and arguing about how probable they are. It's true that we know very little about the early universe; this does not mean that all possible beliefs about it are equally valid.

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Re: Religion

Postby Gelsamel » Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:47 am UTC

Even worse than an omnibenevolent god making multiple religions is one that makes everyone different. If he exists he made everyone different from each other and everyone requires a different amount of evidence to be convinced. Knowing this he punishes those who he made to not be able to believe.
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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Oct 18, 2008 1:57 am UTC

Nath wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:I'm not sure we can say that without a reasonable doubt (for starters, you probably don't want to say 'observable universe', there's no reason to suspect that God is observable, and talking about the 'observable universe' implies the 'cosmos' anyway, since the observable universe is just everything inside our light-cone, and events prior to and including the big bang certainly are outside our light-cone and therefore unobservable.)

By 'observable universe', I mean 'everything that could potentially interact with us' (our light-cone, as you say). If god isn't observable, then he could have had no detectable effect on us. This means he couldn't have created anything in the known universe.

Events outside our light-cone affect and effect us all the time, there's no prohibition of movement into and out of our light-cone, light visible from distant phenomena does it all the time.
EdgarJPublius wrote:I don't know, and you don't know. and Arguing about which is true is pointless until we get a better idea of the origins of the 'infinite' universe, which may never happen.

People's ideas about the origins and early history of the universe do influence the way they act today. This makes it worth examining the various possibilities, and arguing about how probable they are. It's true that we know very little about the early universe; this does not mean that all possible beliefs about it are equally valid.


We know nothing about the early universe, anything before the big-bang might as well be magic and fairy dust for all we know. At the very best, the LHC may give us information regarding the origins of the Big Bang (of which we are currently totally ignorant) but more likely than not, even understanding the origin of the cosmos wouldn't necessarily yield any information about the early universe. We don't have enough information to say with any factuality that any belief about it is any more or less valid than another. If we had more than zero information, we might be able to make assertions of that sort, but we don't and we can't.
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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby Nath » Sat Oct 18, 2008 3:08 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Events outside our light-cone affect and effect us all the time, there's no prohibition of movement into and out of our light-cone, light visible from distant phenomena does it all the time.

One of us does not understand what a light-cone is. As I understand it, for an event outside our light-cone to affect us, it would have to send information faster than light.

EdgarJPublius wrote:We know nothing about the early universe, anything before the big-bang might as well be magic and fairy dust for all we know. At the very best, the LHC may give us information regarding the origins of the Big Bang (of which we are currently totally ignorant) but more likely than not, even understanding the origin of the cosmos wouldn't necessarily yield any information about the early universe. We don't have enough information to say with any factuality that any belief about it is any more or less valid than another. If we had more than zero information, we might be able to make assertions of that sort, but we don't and we can't.

Then I assert that one millisecond after the big bang, the universe was filled with unicorns. Two milliseconds after the big bang, the unicorns were replaced with a whale and a bowl of petunias.

Such an assertion seems improbable, based on the little we do know about the early universe. Even when there's very little information around, it can be a useful exercise to figure out which assertions we can justify, and which assertions we can't. We don't have zero information. We have some information about the universe today; we can extrapolate backwards to give us a small amount of information about the early universe. This does not allow us to make strong factual claims, but it does allow us to evaluate the probability of certain assertions.

I don't think the belief that the early universe was filled with unicorns is as valid as the belief that the early universe was probably not filled with unicorns. This isn't to say that the early universe was certainly not filled with unicorns, of course.

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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby qinwamascot » Sat Oct 18, 2008 4:06 am UTC

Nath wrote:One of us does not understand what a light-cone is. As I understand it, for an event outside our light-cone to affect us, it would have to send information faster than light.


Allow me to explain, even though this is only tangentially related. Information can never travel faster than the speed of light (this is a principle of special relativity. Some things in QM seem to contradict it, but on a macroscopic level this is true). Thus, if something happens at a far away location, can not effect us until the light from that point in space-time gets to us. Light-cones are the logical continuation of this-everywhere that light from a certain time ago (in our frame of reference) could get here, or alternatively, everywhere that light emitted from earth at a point in time (before now) would reach.

Based on the laws of physics, anything outside this cone can not have any effect on us. However, our light cone expands at the speed of light, so new things enter it all the time. Light-cones are usually associated with a point in time when an event occurred and a point in time that we want to analyze. Using them with changing time yields results that, while correct, are not universal. For instance, if Proxima Centauri (the closest star to us) were to supernova right now, we'd create a light cone at earth right now to analyze the event. Until that light-cone reaches the location of the star, we won't experience anything. Afterwords, we very well could.

As for religion in general, I think that all it does is confuse people about science and what is actually correct.
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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Oct 18, 2008 5:19 am UTC

Nath wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:We know nothing about the early universe, anything before the big-bang might as well be magic and fairy dust for all we know. At the very best, the LHC may give us information regarding the origins of the Big Bang (of which we are currently totally ignorant) but more likely than not, even understanding the origin of the cosmos wouldn't necessarily yield any information about the early universe. We don't have enough information to say with any factuality that any belief about it is any more or less valid than another. If we had more than zero information, we might be able to make assertions of that sort, but we don't and we can't.

Then I assert that one millisecond after the big bang, the universe was filled with unicorns. Two milliseconds after the big bang, the unicorns were replaced with a whale and a bowl of petunias.

Such an assertion seems improbable, based on the little we do know about the early universe. Even when there's very little information around, it can be a useful exercise to figure out which assertions we can justify, and which assertions we can't. We don't have zero information. We have some information about the universe today; we can extrapolate backwards to give us a small amount of information about the early universe. This does not allow us to make strong factual claims, but it does allow us to evaluate the probability of certain assertions.

I don't think the belief that the early universe was filled with unicorns is as valid as the belief that the early universe was probably not filled with unicorns. This isn't to say that the early universe was certainly not filled with unicorns, of course.

The trouble is, we have a rough idea of the state of the universe immediately following the big bang (after the planck epoch anyway, and before the planck epoch we can make the reasonable assertion that nothing larger than the planck length had resulted from the big bang).

We have no idea what was going on immediately prior (or earlier) to the big bang.

If M theory is correct for example, the big bang could be the result of another brane (or multiple branes) intersecting our own, those branes would be self contained 'universes' with rules that would be entirely different from our own and there's little chance we could even understand those rules.

Likewise, in other String Theories, the current universe is the result of meta-stable vacuum decay in a previous universe, with cosmological constants different from our own. in either of these cases, any of the universes that resulted in our own could have been populated by unicorns or whales certainly, it's not really any more or less likely than any other assertion that can be made about these universe.

Other theories tend to explain the causes of the universe in terms which I can't really understand or find good layman's term explanations of, but the general idea is that the big bang began as a singularity which started to expand. How the singularity came to exist, what the properties of the singularity were, or why it started expanding are things we don't know, once it started though, we have a general idea of what was going on, and after the planck epoch, we have a pretty good idea of what was going on.

A theory of quantum gravitation might help us understand the properties of the singularity that yielded the Big Bang and why it started expanding, but likely will no tell us how the singularity came to be in the first place, except perhaps as an infinite regression of prior big bangs (What's that you say? Turtles all the way down?).
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Re: Religion

Postby Falmarri » Sat Oct 18, 2008 5:22 am UTC

So what does all that light-cone stuff say about what you're saying about god? If god is outside of our light cone, then he could not have an effect on us until our light cone expands to include him. Therefore he could not have affected us now or in the past. Thus the difference between there being a god and there being not a god is 0.

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Re: Religion

Postby qinwamascot » Sat Oct 18, 2008 5:31 am UTC

Falmarri wrote:So what does all that light-cone stuff say about what you're saying about god? If god is outside of our light cone, then he could not have an effect on us until our light cone expands to include him. Therefore he could not have affected us now or in the past. Thus the difference between there being a god and there being not a god is 0.


Well, if everything we know about physics is correct, then after the beginning of the universe (whenever that was, likely the Big Bang) any god outside our light cone would be unable to do anything. However, a god, or multiple gods, could have created the universe. In addition, a god could potentially create new information, although this is impossible under current physical laws; thus, we can't really say anything about a god except that it is possible, but there is no evidence that supports such a claim which does not also support the current laws of physics (which do not necessitate a god).

But this is besides the point. If an omniscient god created the universe, it could create the universe in a way that would cause everything it wanted to happen at precisely the correct points in spacetime. the laws of physics are unnecessary, but would serve to confuse those ignorant beings who are unfortunate enough to live in such a universe. Alternatively, as many believe, that god could create the universe in such a way as to have the laws of physics work perfectly as intended. In this type of universe, the god simply becomes unimportant after the creation of the universe.

So basically it doesn't say anything definitively.

Edit:
We have no idea what was going on immediately prior (or earlier) to the big bang.


Just to clarify, we have no idea if there even is such a thing as "before the big bang". The concept of time that we understand is inherently related to our own universe, and there isn't a trivial way to carry it to 'before the big bang' (if that phrase even has any meaning). So while we claim that the big bang requires a cause, we really have no idea if this is the case, and no strong reason to believe it does. Extending time to before the big bang is possible, but there isn't a known elegant way to do so mathematically.
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Re: Religion

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Oct 18, 2008 9:01 am UTC

An object outside our lightcone may be able to interact with us simply by being inside the lightcone (and interacting with) of an object that is also inside our lightcone.

And (now that I think about it) there's no reason for god to exist outside our lightcone, I was merely stating that the events that may have resulted in God happened outside our lightcone (and potentially in such a time and place as to prohibit, or at least make very difficult, any observation, direct, indirect, or experimental, of those events).

Right, because a causeless big bang is any less 'turtles all the way down' than one that's infinitely recursive, or any less magical than 'God did it'.

Our current understanding of the origins of the universe does not currently include enough knowledge to objectively dismiss any as more or less ridiculous than any other, Without any more proof than we have (and possibly more proof than we can have) any origin based argument is just going to devolve into 'no your idea is more ridiculous'. We're sides 2 and 3 of the airplane-treadmill debate, arguing over the question rather than the answer. I just want you to see that God is at least a semi-plausible possibility.
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Re: Religion

Postby seladore » Sat Oct 18, 2008 9:10 am UTC

I think that faced with questions like 'what happened before the big bang?', it is perfectly OK to say that we have no idea. None at all. I don't see any problem with saying that we may, in the future, glean some insight - but here and now we have no clue.

Sometimes, in the absence of evidence, the only intelligent thing possible is to admit ignorance. To me, this seems orders of magnitude smarter than looking at the mystery outside our universe, and saying 'Hey! Invisible magic sky daddy was there!'

Dr Strangelove wrote:Salvation comes not from being an awesome person, but from accepting Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who died for your sins, and acknowledging your own imperfection.


This is what I find most disturbing about Christian morality: ultimately, it only recognises its own internal moral structures. You can be as good as you like, but if you don't agree then you are doomed. This seems like a pretty reprehensible moral system.

---

Also, my understanding of lightcones is that they spread over time (think of the Minkowski diagram). So while the tree outside my window I'm looking at is outside my lightcone now (if now is t=0), it will be inside my lightcone in a few ns.

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Re: Religion

Postby qinwamascot » Sat Oct 18, 2008 9:47 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Right, because a causeless big bang is any less 'turtles all the way down' than one that's infinitely recursive, or any less magical than 'God did it'.

Our current understanding of the origins of the universe does not currently include enough knowledge to objectively dismiss any as more or less ridiculous than any other, Without any more proof than we have (and possibly more proof than we can have) any origin based argument is just going to devolve into 'no your idea is more ridiculous'. We're sides 2 and 3 of the airplane-treadmill debate, arguing over the question rather than the answer. I just want you to see that God is at least a semi-plausible possibility.

If there is a god, what created it? Sure, you can say that it always existed. Or you can say that there was no time before it existed. However, in either of these models, we can cut out the god. We can say that the universe always existed, eliminating the need for a god. Or we can say that time is a property of the universe, and causality breaks down outside it. The first of these doesn't work out too well, but the second actually mathematically makes sense based on our understanding of time.

Sure, we can invent a god that created the universe, but why did anything need to create the universe? Certainly nothing created our god that we invent. So causality is not absolute. If this is true, then why did anything have to cause the big bang at all? In no way am I saying that our hypothetical god could not exist, but that it is more complicated for it to exist, which makes it implausible, but not impossible.

The "turtles all the way down" phrase refers to causality. If we were to put this idea into the analogy, we'd just have the earth with no turtles under it at all. Below it is the bottom of the universe. The god hypothesis (assuming that it wasn't created by another god) is the earth on top of one turtle, with the bottom of the universe below it. "Turtles all the way down" would be a god, which was created by another god, which in turn was created by another etc. I don't think any scientists would have a problem asserting that there is a turtle under the world if there was evidence to say so. But if not, the simpler idea (no turtles) naturally makes more sense. Likewise, if there was evidence of a god, I would have no problem believing in it. But it's simpler without such a thing.

seladore wrote:Also, my understanding of lightcones is that they spread over time (think of the Minkowski diagram). So while the tree outside my window I'm looking at is outside my lightcone now (if now is t=0), it will be inside my lightcone in a few ns.

This is correct. Light cones expand at the speed of light.

edited to fix typo
Last edited by qinwamascot on Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:58 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby Nath » Sat Oct 18, 2008 10:06 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:in either of these cases, any of the universes that resulted in our own could have been populated by unicorns or whales certainly, it's not really any more or less likely than any other assertion that can be made about these universe.

This is false. It is less likely than some other assertions, because it is more specific than some other assertions. The more constraints the assertion places on the set of possible pre-Bang universes, the lower the probability of that assertion.

Falmarri wrote:So what does all that light-cone stuff say about what you're saying about god? If god is outside of our light cone, then he could not have an effect on us until our light cone expands to include him. Therefore he could not have affected us now or in the past. Thus the difference between there being a god and there being not a god is 0.

The light-cone stuff implies that if god is outside our light cone, he could not have created anything within our light cone. Assuming special relativity holds, that is.

EdgarJPublius wrote:An object outside our lightcone may be able to interact with us simply by being inside the lightcone (and interacting with) of an object that is also inside our lightcone.

No. An object A outside our cone can indeed interact with an object B inside our cone, but the effects of that interaction cannot have reached us yet. By the time they do, A would have entered our light cone.

(It may be helpful to think of light-cones as two distinct cones: one for the past, one for the future. Both cones are spheres of radius ct centered on the observer, where t is the absolute value of the time difference from the present, and c is the speed of light. When I talk of object B being in our (past) light cone, I mean that at some point in the past, some event could have occurred at B which we could detect now. Since object A was at a distance greater than ct, at all times t, any event occurring at A would have to send information faster than light for it to have reached us by now, whether it sent that information via B or not.)

Our current understanding of the origins of the universe does not currently include enough knowledge to objectively dismiss any as more or less ridiculous than any other, Without any more proof than we have (and possibly more proof than we can have) any origin based argument is just going to devolve into 'no your idea is more ridiculous'. We're sides 2 and 3 of the airplane-treadmill debate, arguing over the question rather than the answer. I just want you to see that God is at least a semi-plausible possibility.

I see the probability of a god existing as non-zero (for certain definitions of god; zero for others, barring icky solipsism-type issues). I don't see it as plausible (in the sense of having a reasonably high priority) for various reasons discussed earlier in this thread.

The argument need not devolve into 'your idea is more ridiculous'-fests. Nor do we have to say, "I don't know, so any belief is equally valid". We can figure out why our probability estimates differ by comparing evidence, reasoning, and biases. We can reduce misunderstandings and ambiguity by agreeing on definitions.

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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Sun Oct 19, 2008 3:28 am UTC

Nath wrote:Which way will a pen fall if I let go? From past experience, I it'll very probably fall downwards, because that's what pens usually do. However, maybe there's no such thing as gravity. Maybe if you drop something, there's a 50% chance it'll fall to the ground, and a 50% chance that it'll float to the roof, and it just so happens that all my observations have been in the first category. Maybe next time it'll go to the roof.
Right, if you dropped a pen in this observable portion of the universe, you most likely be right, but outside of it, you can't actually make a logical guess because you don't have enough information. In either place, though, the truth of the actions of the pen exist entirely independently of your personal biased opinions of what those actions should be. Inside the observable universe, you can place probabilities on the outcome of events or a truth value on certain statements made. Outside, you can't say one way or another what is, much less what will happen.

If our biases were even mildly accurate, then wouldn't it be an even more accurate picture to just take all the biases in the world and follow that?

Nath wrote:I haven't found the post with array of choices, but I don't think believing in a non-existent god is a zero-loss state.
I'll repost it here. Zero-loss is compared to there not being a god. That is, if there is no god, then you simply cease existing as a person when you die, so that is considered no loss. Also, feel free to nitpick it some more. I wouldn't mind doing a little more research into the matter, though I feel, at present, it's actually fairly comprehensive. Most any other religion drops into one of these categories.

I wrote:So the array isn't quite as simple as Pascal originally made it. It's more like this:
believe/follow - not believe/follow
One True GodTM.......................infinite gain - either infinite loss or no loss
(Christian, Judaism, Islam)
atheism................................no gain - no loss
“mythological” religions.............good crops, healthy kids - no loss
(Greek, Roman, Norse Mythology)
most other major religions..........good life - do over or no loss
(Hinduism, Taoism, Wicca, etc.)
Cthulhu.................................destruction - maybe not destruction(but probably destruction)
other constructions...................no gain - no loss
(teapots, unicorns, pasta, raptors)

In order to minimize losses, one must choose the One True GodTM.

In order to maximize benefits, one must choose the One True GodTM.

Please note, that not all options are mutually exclusive.


Nath wrote:People -- I, at least -- can't deliberately choose what to believe; I have no choice but to follow the evidence.
I guess this just seems the most obvious to me. Sometime, whenever you feel is appropriate, you say something along the lines of the following, "I don't see you, if you're real, then show me, then we'll talk." You don't have to just up and say, "I believe in god now, yay!" I wouldn't know how you could do that, either. Any religion in the "OTG" category and almost all in the "other major religions" category promote that you make your beliefs yours. That is, it is all about what you believe on your own, not that you have to believe what other people tell you.

I've started catching up on the conversation about god and light cone and junk, but haven't much to say either way. Using god as a reason for the universe or whatever is actually meaningless to me. Go back far enough (pre big bang, if such a "time" exists) and it all becomes quickly irrelevant to most anything I care about, or more accurately can personally do anything about. It's interesting, but isn't relevant to me right this moment.

Nath wrote:We can figure out why our probability estimates differ by comparing evidence, reasoning, and biases.
Here we will reach an impasse. I think the problem is all of our evidence is antidotal. It just doesn't prove anything, and is already interpreted with bias. The only nonbiased opinion is to be completely undecided on everything. Obviously this doesn't work well in practice, but it's still true.

I believe, based on antidotal evidence of my own, that almost all positions of theist and atheist go something like this. When everybody is young, they are simply taught whatever. Sometimes they accept this, sometimes they rebel, but whatever the case, they decide, pretty early on, that god either does or does not exist. Maybe grandma's god hates gays so now god isn't real or maybe Uncle Joe taught them that church was a bunch of bullshit. Maybe they had some sort of undefined emotional experience or all their peers told them that they should believe in god or they may go to hell. Whatever, the point, is that almost all people I have ever met in my life have made this decision very, very early on in their life. Sometimes as young as 8 or 10 or up to, idk, 17 through early 20s. Point is, life, and not even sometimes adult life, is just starting either way and they think that they have it all figured out now. Now they've spent all the time from then till now gathering evidence to support their decision.

When somebody loved dies, the theist says it's just their time or that god loved them so he took them to be with him and the atheist says that a god who loved wouldn't have taken them away or that it was all about the situation that could have been prevented. So this one incidence is interpreted completely differently. It's the same with anything else. "Obviously god would/would not or does/does not." All conclusions are completely biased. How can you say who is more correct? Especially in a case like this where the reasons may even all have high degrees of truth to them at the same time.

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Re: Religion

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:52 am UTC

I wrote:So the array isn't quite as simple as Pascal originally made it. It's more like this:
believe/follow - not believe/follow
One True GodTM.......................infinite gain - either infinite loss or no loss
(Christian, Judaism, Islam)
atheism................................no gain - no loss
“mythological” religions.............good crops, healthy kids - no loss
(Greek, Roman, Norse Mythology)
most other major religions..........good life - do over or no loss
(Hinduism, Taoism, Wicca, etc.)
Cthulhu.................................destruction - maybe not destruction(but probably destruction)
other constructions...................no gain - no loss
(teapots, unicorns, pasta, raptors)

In order to minimize losses, one must choose the One True GodTM.

In order to maximize benefits, one must choose the One True GodTM.

Please note, that not all options are mutually exclusive.


It seems possible to me to have a construct like this:
I wrote:One True God who hates all believers -- either no loss or infinite loss - infinite gain

or
I wrote:One True God who hates all Christians -- either infinite gain or no gain - infinite loss if Christian, otherwise no loss

or a whole variety of other things. To me, these don't seem any less likely than the One True God you proposed. After all, if "God works in mysterious ways" then there is no reason to believe that a way that seems slightly more mysterious is any less false. So Pascal's wager fails, because these options were never considered.
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:57 am UTC

I seem to be repeating myself, but here we go:
theonlyjett wrote:Right, if you dropped a pen in this observable portion of the universe, you most likely be right, but outside of it, you can't actually make a logical guess because you don't have enough information. In either place, though, the truth of the actions of the pen exist entirely independently of your personal biased opinions of what those actions should be. Inside the observable universe, you can place probabilities on the outcome of events or a truth value on certain statements made. Outside, you can't say one way or another what is, much less what will happen.

Predicting which way the pen will go is making a prediction about an unobservable part of the universe: the future. Yes, the future is, in fact, unobservable. That's why we handle it using probabilities. Probabilities are for dealing with the unobservable parts of universe, not the observable parts. Inside the observable parts, you can directly observe answers to your questions.

As for the bit about biases, I'm going to draw an analogy between choosing biases and choosing bus routes.
Nath wrote:I didn't say that all bias is pretty accurate. I said that the specific bias I was talking about ("The universe's unobserved behaviour is correlated with the universe's observed behaviour") was a pretty accurate bias. That's why I use it. There are plenty of inaccurate biases; I try to avoid them.
Me: This specific bus seems to take us closer to our destination. Plenty of other buses take us farther from our destination.
theonlyjett wrote:If our biases were even mildly accurate, then wouldn't it be an even more accurate picture to just take all the biases in the world and follow that?
You: If buses tend to take us even slightly closer to our destination, then wouldn't getting onto all the buses in the world take us even closer to our destination?

That line of reasoning doesn't make sense to me.

If you formalize the terminology a bit, you can prove that the expected accuracy of a bias chosen uniformly at random from the set of possible biases is no greater than random chance. Most possible biases are not even mildly accurate. Thus the importance of choosing and evaluating your biases in such a way that you can be reasonably confident of their predictive power.

theonlyjett wrote:I'll repost it here. Zero-loss is compared to there not being a god. That is, if there is no god, then you simply cease existing as a person when you die, so that is considered no loss. Also, feel free to nitpick it some more. I wouldn't mind doing a little more research into the matter, though I feel, at present, it's actually fairly comprehensive. Most any other religion drops into one of these categories.

Your comparison is missing one dimension. You need to enumerate the possible actions (follow/not follow) as well as the possible ground truths (right religion/not right religion). This gives four possible utility states for each religion/view, each of which may have a distinct utility. You have enumerated the possible outcomes in the 'right religion' column; the negative utility for most views is in the 'not right religion' column.

theonlyjett wrote:I guess this just seems the most obvious to me. Sometime, whenever you feel is appropriate, you say something along the lines of the following, "I don't see you, if you're real, then show me, then we'll talk."

OK, I just did this. Nothing happened. Presumably, there's more to it.

theonlyjett wrote:Here we will reach an impasse. I think the problem is all of our evidence is antidotal. It just doesn't prove anything, and is already interpreted with bias. The only nonbiased opinion is to be completely undecided on everything. Obviously this doesn't work well in practice, but it's still true.

Perfectly true, as I said here:
Nath wrote:Remember: bias isn't optional. Without bias, we couldn't have reasoned opinions about anything we couldn't directly observe. Coins would be just as likely to turn into parakeets as they would be to land heads-up. Our only choice in the matter is that of which biases we use, and how much weight we give each one.

Thus the discussion we had a couple of pages ago about choosing and evaluating biases, and how not all biases are equal.

The thing is, even anecdotal evidence (guessing that's what you meant) is not completely worthless. It needs to be weighted appropriately by the observer's biases; in other words, you need to figure out how correlated the observer's beliefs are to reality. All information starts out as anecdotal. Careful, controlled study converts anecdotes into knowledge. After all, anecdotal simply means 'not yet supported by controlled study'.

theonlyjett wrote:I believe, based on antidotal evidence of my own, that almost all positions of theist and atheist go something like this. When everybody is young, they are simply taught whatever. Sometimes they accept this, sometimes they rebel, but whatever the case, they decide, pretty early on, that god either does or does not exist. Maybe grandma's god hates gays so now god isn't real or maybe Uncle Joe taught them that church was a bunch of bullshit. Maybe they had some sort of undefined emotional experience or all their peers told them that they should believe in god or they may go to hell. Whatever, the point, is that almost all people I have ever met in my life have made this decision very, very early on in their life. Sometimes as young as 8 or 10 or up to, idk, 17 through early 20s. Point is, life, and not even sometimes adult life, is just starting either way and they think that they have it all figured out now. Now they've spent all the time from then till now gathering evidence to support their decision.

Often true, but neither desirable nor inevitable. I must have mentioned at some point in this thread that my own views on these matters have always been changing. I started out a pretty literal Hindu. Reflecting on the facts, I realized that my beliefs were not supported by the available evidence. That was the most dramatic change in my views, but there have been several others (mostly refinements and clarifications) since. Any form of investigation that doesn't allow new evidence and new reasoning to change your conclusions is deeply flawed.

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Re: Religion

Postby Midnight » Tue Oct 21, 2008 5:43 am UTC

my problem with the christian faith is that they hate on scientologists.

Explain why the story of "Space alien emperor Xenu dumped evil alien souls into a volcano and they made us sin and you can measure your sin-ness with a machine. you can get rid of it by paying the church a few hundred bucks to go into a steam-room with a guy who's less sinful than you"
is less plausible than "so this guy, right, took this other guy, and threw his ass down an infinite distance (but he landed in a hole) and that other guy was all mad and made us sin cause... he can do that--but you can't measure it. you can get rid of your sin by locking into a mesh closet with a guy who's known for loving jesus, and then admitting your sin."


v_v but now when i actually read above posts, i feel inadequate in my wordcount. SO i'll pretend that this post was to switch the conversation over a few degrees, to the whole "Well we know greek myths are a cool story. so why isn't the bible a cool story" Unless we covered that the in the past ~800 posts.
uhhhh fuck.

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Re: Religion

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Oct 21, 2008 6:10 am UTC

I'd get behind that. The bible is a really neat set of stories. Scientology, by contrast, is a second-rate story. You can tell it was written by a hack.

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Re: Religion

Postby qinwamascot » Tue Oct 21, 2008 8:45 am UTC

I don't think you can, because no one really knows what they say.

The problem I have with it is that it is just as ridiculous as every other religion, plus you have to pay for it. So not only are Scientologists gullible, they're also economically idiotic. If you're going to believe in something, at least make it something that doesn't cost half your paycheck.
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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue Oct 21, 2008 10:10 pm UTC

Nath wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:in either of these cases, any of the universes that resulted in our own could have been populated by unicorns or whales certainly, it's not really any more or less likely than any other assertion that can be made about these universe.

This is false. It is less likely than some other assertions, because it is more specific than some other assertions. The more constraints the assertion places on the set of possible pre-Bang universes, the lower the probability of that assertion.
What constraints am I placing on the set of possible pre-bang universes?

Falmarri wrote:So what does all that light-cone stuff say about what you're saying about god? If god is outside of our light cone, then he could not have an effect on us until our light cone expands to include him. Therefore he could not have affected us now or in the past. Thus the difference between there being a god and there being not a god is 0.

The light-cone stuff implies that if god is outside our light cone, he could not have created anything within our light cone. Assuming special relativity holds, that is.

EdgarJPublius wrote:An object outside our lightcone may be able to interact with us simply by being inside the lightcone (and interacting with) of an object that is also inside our lightcone.

No. An object A outside our cone can indeed interact with an object B inside our cone, but the effects of that interaction cannot have reached us yet. By the time they do, A would have entered our light cone.

(It may be helpful to think of light-cones as two distinct cones: one for the past, one for the future. Both cones are spheres of radius ct centered on the observer, where t is the absolute value of the time difference from the present, and c is the speed of light. When I talk of object B being in our (past) light cone, I mean that at some point in the past, some event could have occurred at B which we could detect now. Since object A was at a distance greater than ct, at all times t, any event occurring at A would have to send information faster than light for it to have reached us by now, whether it sent that information via B or not.)
Theres no reason for God to exist outside our light cone.

think more in terms of object A, a nebula and object B, the star that went supernova and resulted in that nebula. If we observe the nebula, the star which created it is outside our lightcone. metaphorically, God is the nebula which is observable as the events/influences etc. that may have resulted in some or all organized (and potentially unorganized as well) religions. The supernova is the creation of God.


Our current understanding of the origins of the universe does not currently include enough knowledge to objectively dismiss any as more or less ridiculous than any other, Without any more proof than we have (and possibly more proof than we can have) any origin based argument is just going to devolve into 'no your idea is more ridiculous'. We're sides 2 and 3 of the airplane-treadmill debate, arguing over the question rather than the answer. I just want you to see that God is at least a semi-plausible possibility.

I see the probability of a god existing as non-zero (for certain definitions of god; zero for others, barring icky solipsism-type issues). I don't see it as plausible (in the sense of having a reasonably high priority) for various reasons discussed earlier in this thread.
It's reasonable to to give differing probabilities to differing gods, I doubt the strict biblical interpretation of the judeo-christian god exists for example, but the idea of a god which may have influenced humans in such a way as to invent that god I see as likely.
The argument need not devolve into 'your idea is more ridiculous'-fests. Nor do we have to say, "I don't know, so any belief is equally valid". We can figure out why our probability estimates differ by comparing evidence, reasoning, and biases. We can reduce misunderstandings and ambiguity by agreeing on definitions.

Very well, let's figure out why our probability estimates differ.
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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby Klapaucius » Tue Oct 21, 2008 10:50 pm UTC

Now I understand why Richard Dawkins used the word "say" so much. If he ever tried to actually go through the infinite permutations of philosophy rather than chunk them all into broad examples, his book would have been titled The God Headache.
500%!

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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby Nath » Thu Oct 23, 2008 7:13 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:
Nath wrote:This is false. It is less likely than some other assertions, because it is more specific than some other assertions. The more constraints the assertion places on the set of possible pre-Bang universes, the lower the probability of that assertion.
What constraints am I placing on the set of possible pre-bang universes?

If you assert that the universe was populate by unicorns, you eliminate all possible universes that were not populated by unicorns.

If you treat all possible universes as equally likely (which is not unreasonable, given that we have little to no information about this period), then the probability of a set of universes containing the real one is directly proportional to the number of universes in that set.

EdgarJPublius wrote:think more in terms of object A, a nebula and object B, the star that went supernova and resulted in that nebula. If we observe the nebula, the star which created it is outside our lightcone.

No. If the star was outside our light-cone, we would not be able to observe the nebula yet. Since the star sent us information (via the nebula), by definition it is in our light-cone.

(I think you might be confusing 'on our light-cone' with 'in our light-cone'.)

EdgarJPublius wrote:Very well, let's figure out why our probability estimates differ.

I think that's what we're doing.

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Re: Religion

Postby Dr.Robert » Wed Oct 29, 2008 6:17 am UTC

Midnight wrote:my problem with the christian faith is that they hate on scientologists.

Explain why the story of "Space alien emperor Xenu dumped evil alien souls into a volcano and they made us sin and you can measure your sin-ness with a machine. you can get rid of it by paying the church a few hundred bucks to go into a steam-room with a guy who's less sinful than you"
is less plausible than "so this guy, right, took this other guy, and threw his ass down an infinite distance (but he landed in a hole) and that other guy was all mad and made us sin cause... he can do that--but you can't measure it. you can get rid of your sin by locking into a mesh closet with a guy who's known for loving jesus, and then admitting your sin."


Indeed, though some would argue that Christianity has history on it's side, but nevertheless, their both ridiculous. I actually like Scientology's story more; it serves as great literary entertainment. The Bible, with the exception of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, is pretty lame, in my opinion.

"The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next."

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Re: Religion

Postby Sto Helit » Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:03 am UTC

Dr.Robert wrote:"The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next."


I agree!
A few thousand years ago, the Greeks believed stubbornly that there were many gods; one for each area of life. Now, most people laugh at that idea.
In a couple of thousand years, who's to say that the future generations won't be laughing at us?
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Re: Religion

Postby Dezign » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:00 am UTC

SJ Zero wrote:The bible is a really neat set of stories. Scientology, by contrast, is a second-rate story. You can tell it was written by a hack.

You know all those ancient saints who each got a chapter in the Bible? Eventually, all their work was extensively modified by monks during transcription. Even taking a conservative guess to how much of the text has been changed, it's undeniable the work was altered for the purposes of making it sound better and to be more understandable (I bet you can't read much Latin, Aramaic or ancient Hebrew).

The Bible is actually an open source novel. I bet that's not something religious "fundamentalists" would like to remember.

...

This thread, merged as it is with other threads, is over forty pages long. From my experience of having read a twenty page post in this forum, this thread on religion has more written material in it than many entry level college courses have for required reading. To me this seems unfriendly to newcomers interested in fully understanding the progress of this discussion, and could easily reduce its quality. The alternative to scanning every post in the entire thread is reading only one to three pages back into the thread, then judging what the topic is currently centered on and entering an opinion without regard to the 37+ pages of probably helpful written material.

Basically, this thread looks like a garbage dump. I took the "Read the last page or two and hope my post wasn't already covered ten times" approach. If this was insufficiently rigorous to join the discussion (which could still have thoughtful, serious content in it) I will gladly note my error and make sure to read the backpages in their entirety before posting again. Otherwise I'd suggest the topic be cleaned somehow, or at least have some milestones or concise summaries pointed out, perhaps in edits to the original post.

I have a few paragraphs on my position towards religious philosophy and thought which I may post if they could further the discussion, assuming my relative lack of information about the preceding material is not going to make my post any more redundant than it may already be.

Edit: I rescind my objection after reading Az's introduction thread discussion (page 2, mostly).
Last edited by Dezign on Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:17 am UTC, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Religion

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:04 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:I'd get behind that. The bible is a really neat set of stories. Scientology, by contrast, is a second-rate story. You can tell it was written by a hack.


Stop trying to subfusc the issues here.
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Re: Religion

Postby theonlyjett » Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:43 am UTC

First, I want to apologize to Nath for taking so long to reply. A lot has been going in life lately and I've only had enough mental energy left at the end of the day to just hit up a couple threads, but not really take the time to write. I quoted your last response as well as your quote of what you responded to so hopefully you don't have to go back to read the original posts to remember what the hell we were talking about.

Nath wrote:
theonlyjett wrote:If our biases were even mildly accurate, then wouldn't it be an even more accurate picture to just take all the biases in the world and follow that?
You: If buses tend to take us even slightly closer to our destination, then wouldn't getting onto all the buses in the world take us even closer to our destination?

That line of reasoning doesn't make sense to me.

If you formalize the terminology a bit, you can prove that the expected accuracy of a bias chosen uniformly at random from the set of possible biases is no greater than random chance. Most possible biases are not even mildly accurate. Thus the importance of choosing and evaluating your biases in such a way that you can be reasonably confident of their predictive power.
First here, my statement wasn't an assertion that I believe. It was just to take your assumption (that we have any way to tell if personal biases are accurate at all) to the next step. There is still, however, the idea to me that, you and I are each just one person who only see our sphere of existence, but when we relate to each other our views and experiences (assuming we can trust each other and share common definitions of terms), we can together see at least a slightly "bigger picture" than by ourselves.

Really though, I think I mostly am just trying to emphasize the idea that we cannot even necessarily trust our own biases. That is, it's far "wiser" to say "maybe X, but I can't be sure," than, "I'm sure X." I think we probably both agree in principle on this, anyhow.

Nath wrote:
theonlyjett wrote:I guess this just seems the most obvious to me. Sometime, whenever you feel is appropriate, you say something along the lines of the following, "I don't see you, if you're real, then show me, then we'll talk."
OK, I just did this. Nothing happened. Presumably, there's more to it.
Maybe nothing happened, but you can't be sure.

Nath wrote:I started out a pretty literal Hindu. Reflecting on the facts, I realized that my beliefs were not supported by the available evidence. That was the most dramatic change in my views, but there have been several others (mostly refinements and clarifications) since.
I would be genuinely interested in hearing more about this. What sort of literal beliefs did you have? What are some pivotal moments of clarity for you?

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Re: True Agnosticism IS the only logical choice

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:38 am UTC

Nath wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:
Nath wrote:This is false. It is less likely than some other assertions, because it is more specific than some other assertions. The more constraints the assertion places on the set of possible pre-Bang universes, the lower the probability of that assertion.
What constraints am I placing on the set of possible pre-bang universes?

If you assert that the universe was populate by unicorns, you eliminate all possible universes that were not populated by unicorns.

If you treat all possible universes as equally likely (which is not unreasonable, given that we have little to no information about this period), then the probability of a set of universes containing the real one is directly proportional to the number of universes in that set.

For a while I didn't even think this post needed a response (not to imply that it was a bad response or whatever, it just seemed like the rhetorical end of our discussion)

But then I thought, you are assuming that I am the one placing constraints on possible universe by discarding possible universe in which there is no God, But you are just on the other side of the coin, discarding possible universes in which there is a God.
And now that that's said, we've truly reached an impasse, unless someone can reduce the number of possible God-Populated or God-Free universes.

This is where I say that I believe the God-populated idea is more likely because X, Y, and/or Z and you say the same only sub God-Populated with God-Free and we're right back at airplanes on treadmills.
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Re: Religion

Postby Nath » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:17 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:First here, my statement wasn't an assertion that I believe. It was just to take your assumption (that we have any way to tell if personal biases are accurate at all) to the next step. There is still, however, the idea to me that, you and I are each just one person who only see our sphere of existence, but when we relate to each other our views and experiences (assuming we can trust each other and share common definitions of terms), we can together see at least a slightly "bigger picture" than by ourselves.

Really though, I think I mostly am just trying to emphasize the idea that we cannot even necessarily trust our own biases. That is, it's far "wiser" to say "maybe X, but I can't be sure," than, "I'm sure X." I think we probably both agree in principle on this, anyhow.

I'm a little confused. I never claimed that we could say "I'm sure X". I claimed that there are certain heuristics that we can use to try to evaluate the probability of uncertain assertions. I claimed that not all assertions are equal, and though we can't be completely certain of anything, we can sometimes make a pretty good argument that some statement is true or false.

theonlyjett wrote:I would be genuinely interested in hearing more about this. What sort of literal beliefs did you have? What are some pivotal moments of clarity for you?

Growing up, some people in my family were religious, and others played along. I was told stories of Hindu gods, and participated in religious ceremonies. Everybody seemed to take it seriously, and I guess nobody thought to tell me that it wasn't meant to be literally true. Meanwhile, I was going to a Christian school that had been set up by missionary-types, and I kind of applied their 'questioning=wrong' mindset to my religion.
Alas, there were no pivotal moments of clarity. In my teens, I gradually started to (somewhat guiltily at first) evaluate the stories I'd been told, with results that you can probably guess. The realization that certain members of my family (whom I knew to be good people) had also done this made me feel better about it, though we didn't all come to the same conclusions.

EdgarJPublius wrote:But then I thought, you are assuming that I am the one placing constraints on possible universe by discarding possible universe in which there is no God, But you are just on the other side of the coin, discarding possible universes in which there is a God.

In this discussion, I have not been arguing for strong atheism. I've been arguing against strong theism. In other words, I am not discarding any universes.
In fact, the specific line you quoted was not about gods at all; it was about whales and/or unicorns. An assertion that discards universes not filled with whales has lower probability than an assertion that doesn't. (Sorry if that's hard to parse; I'm tired.)

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Re: Religion

Postby EdgarJPublius » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:54 am UTC

no, it makes fine sense, I just thought you were being metaphorical. I was tired and forgot we had already discussed unicorn/whale filled universes.
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Re: Religion

Postby phonon266737 » Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:15 am UTC

On "observing" God...
Why not design an experiment? Something akin the the aether experiments at the beginning of most modern physics textbooks. Or perhaps God affects everything, such that attempts to observe show null results.

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Re: Religion

Postby Kaiyas » Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:48 am UTC

phonon266737 wrote:On "observing" God...
Why not design an experiment?

Good idea, what's your hypothesis?

phonon266737 wrote:Or perhaps God affects everything, such that attempts to observe show null results.

Or rather ambiguous answers. :roll:
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Re: Religion

Postby EdgarJPublius » Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:24 am UTC

phonon266737 wrote:On "observing" God...
Why not design an experiment? Something akin the the aether experiments at the beginning of most modern physics textbooks. Or perhaps God affects everything, such that attempts to observe show null results.


Good idea, how do you suggest this experiment be conducted? What result would 'prove' god?
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Re: Religion

Postby clintonius » Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:46 am UTC

Or (because this is the way ScienceTM is usually conducted), what results would disprove the existence of a god?
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Re: Religion

Postby Noc » Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:49 am UTC

And remember, because people tend to make this mistake a lot, you need to actually disprove the existence of God, not just prove that you can design paradoxes out of apparent inconsistencies in religious texts.
Have you given up?

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Re: Religion

Postby EdgarJPublius » Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:56 am UTC

clintonius wrote:Or (because this is the way ScienceTM is usually conducted), what results would disprove the existence of a god?

that's what i meant of course.

Though either way seems hopelessly improbable even if such an experiment could be constructed.
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Re: Religion

Postby Julle » Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:26 pm UTC

clintonius wrote:Or (because this is the way ScienceTM is usually conducted), what results would disprove the existence of a god?


Yeah, and there is a invisible and non-measureable teapot orbiting Saturn.

With your logic, the teapot exists until proven nonexisting just because I, or someone, said it. This is nonsense. :|

The burden of proof is at the believer, not the agnostic.

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Re: Religion

Postby clintonius » Fri Nov 21, 2008 4:39 pm UTC

You're actually reading things into my post that aren't there -- for instance, the notion that something is believed to exist until disproven. And the notion that I'm demanding disproof. I think you failed to grasp the idea we're working with here, which is the (admittedly pretty far-fetched) concept of designing some manner of scientific study regarding the existence or nonexistence of a god. My comment concerned only the methodology. In a scientific experiment, one instance of disproving a hypothesis is enough, assuming everything else concerning the experiment was valid.
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*...pokes at it with a stick*

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Re: Religion

Postby Julle » Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:15 pm UTC

clintonius wrote:You're actually reading things into my post that aren't there -- for instance, the notion that something is believed to exist until disproven. And the notion that I'm demanding disproof. I think you failed to grasp the idea we're working with here, which is the (admittedly pretty far-fetched) concept of designing some manner of scientific study regarding the existence or nonexistence of a god. My comment concerned only the methodology. In a scientific experiment, one instance of disproving a hypothesis is enough, assuming everything else concerning the experiment was valid.


Sorry if I misunderstood your point.
The problem with disproving the existence of gods is that there is no Hypothesis to disprove.

Wikipedia on Hypothesis wrote:A hypothesis (from Greek ὑπόθεσις) consists either of a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon or of a reasoned proposal predicting a possible causal correlation among multiple phenomena.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothesis

The existence of gods is not an observable phenomenon, therefore there is no hypothesis.
No hypothesis, no need or ability to disprove exists.

And even if we would find a proof that disproves god, the religious would just say that it's how the god(s) intended it to look like.

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Re: Religion

Postby Felstaff » Fri Nov 21, 2008 8:30 pm UTC

So we can all agree that using a science pole to catch a god is futile?

Religion runs on the ideals of faith. There's a spot in the brain that's responsible for this (some may infer) irrational behaviour, but until the government passes a bill to allow the quashing of this little bundle of receptors with a full frontal lobotomy, there is no way science can prove or disprove god. There is no test, except for this telephone I have here, with the digits 0-9, *, # and a blank button I labelled 'God'. If I press that and the Almighty answers, then perhaps religion has a case and science can back off. Until that happens, the two are mutually exclusive.
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