Lunch Break: Does God exist?


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Comments:

Ugh. I wonder if little Albert would have said that same stuff toward the end of his life.

Posted by: Nate Sheets at October 8, 2009 12:21 PM


Interesting. Albert Einstein was one of the greatest thinkers of this world.

Posted by: LizFromNebraska at October 8, 2009 1:39 PM


Albert was pointing out a fallacious argument. Obviously you can't prove the existence of God. That is the point. Anyone religious will tell you it is based on faith. You can interpret evidence to convince yourself one way or the other, but that is belief, a construct of human consciousness. It has nothing to do with the existence of God, only one's belief.

Interesting that the ad is in German with English subtitles and produced by the Republic of Macedonia. Any background on that?

Posted by: hippie at October 8, 2009 1:39 PM


Hi Hippie.

"Obviously you can't prove the existence of God. That is the point. Anyone religious will tell you it is based on faith"

This is actually quite incorrect. It is an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, hammered out at Vatican I in 1870, that one can prove that God exists by the light of natural reason and know so with certainty, not based whatsoever of faith. So the Catholic Church unequivocally condemns the proposition that "you can't prove the existence of God."

In fact, how do you prove that you can't prove the existence of God?

Posted by: Bobby Bambino Author Profile Page at October 8, 2009 2:25 PM


Also, I'm quite sure many of my Protestant friends would point to a passage like Romans 1:20 (one of the same passages appealed to by Vatican I) to argue that belief in God is not based on faith, but by the natural light of reason.

Posted by: Bobby Bambino Author Profile Page at October 8, 2009 2:29 PM


Posted by: Bobby Bambino at October 8, 2009 2:29 PM

Right - you can only prove the positive. The very point that the young Albert makes in the advertisement. That there is anything at all is evidence of God and not the contrary.

Where faith comes, is that belief that God's justice is satisfied due to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins, such that all who claim him, also claim the death He died, and thus by His grace we are saved.

We know of God's existence, but we can only imagine his holy perfection.

Posted by: Chris Arsenault at October 8, 2009 3:13 PM


Bobby,

You know I respect your position. The idea that something can/could be proved is not the same as actually having proved it to the satisfaction of an empirical test. It seems the statement of 1870 seems to be similar to Newton's notion that God's existence was evidenced by the order found in nature. This is not the same as mathematical proofs or scientific proofs like proving that some chemical cures a disease. That is reproducible. I am not pushing the position that God doesn't exist. I am just making the observation that Einstein's argument was simply to point out his teacher's fallacious reasoning which wasn't reasoning at all rather just the appearance of reason to make the children agree with him.

As for your question:


"In fact, how do you prove that you can't prove the existence of God?"

I don't know, and I don't pretend that I could.

I would add that I wouldn't pretend to compare my intellect to those who drafted the statement 1870.

I also don't think I inaccurately characterize the position of many religious people who really think that belief is based on faith not proof.

I will stick to the notion that disbelief cannot destroy a God who exists any more than belief can create one that doesn't. Belief is a construct of the mind. Facts are not.

Posted by: hippie at October 8, 2009 3:34 PM


My fiancee posted this video in her facebook and 2 self-described militant atheists took the bait. It opened up a long discussion about the existence of God. I obviously could not prove God to their liking over a facebook message, but I was able to dis-prove their proofs against God. Basically, I showed how they were not really atheist at all, but more agnostic.

Posted by: Scott at October 8, 2009 3:50 PM


gm,

For myself exploring the world of ideas, it is immaterial who makes the argument. If the illiterate gardner has a better argument than the professor, I would like to think I could appreciate it. Appeals to authority are logical fallacies. Even Einstein was probably wrong about something, anyway. Similarly, if a school child using reason questions the assertions made by a teacher, we shouldn't go with the assertion of the more socially powerful just because he is more socially powerful. The child still has an intellect and reason of his own in which he should have confidence enough to assert even if only to himself. The goal of education of capable minds is to have them exceed the competency of their teachers by drawing on what is passed to them from previous generations and using fresh insight to expand it.

As far as I know, Einstein was secular. His parents were. That doesn't mean he would necessarily endorse some sort of backward thinking process where one starts with a conclusion one believes and works up some schlocky argument to support it and dress it up as wisdom and foist it on school kids.

Posted by: hippie at October 8, 2009 3:57 PM


Thanks for the reply, Hippie.

I agree with you that what Einstein says does not prove that God exists. However, I think there is a problem in what you seem to accept as "proof." If we equate the word "proof" with "empirically verify", then there is nothing I can say, but I think there is more to proving something than simply being able to empirically verify it. If this is so, then we must throw all of forensic science out the window because you can not reproduce a murder scene or anything like that. You take all the evidence that you have and look for the best possible explanation to fit that evidence. There are also metaphysical claims that we know to be true but are not empirically verifiable, such as the existence of other minds or that the world was not created 5 minutes ago with all our memories infused. All of the ethical claims that we make are not empirically verifiable, yet we know that for example abortion is wrong, and we can prove that based on first principles. And finally, claiming (and I'm not saying you do make this claim) that the only way we can prove anything is by empirically verifying it must ITSELF be empirically verified in order to satisfy its own criteria. Otherwise, we begin with this unproven and non-verifiable proposition that "all things which can be proven must be verifiable empirically" which I see no reason to hold.

Does that make sense?

Posted by: Bobby Bambino Author Profile Page at October 8, 2009 4:02 PM


I think we agree Bobby.

It seems people often demand an impossible standard for propositions they reject on grounds other than reason while accepting propositions they like without even applying a standard.

Think of those who believe that life begins at birth even though all evidence points to the beginning at conception. People believe what they want to believe and it is fair to call them on it. Life beginning at birth is demonstrably false by any empirical measure. Make them own their own irrationality.

There is an intellectual honesty issue when claiming a position is based on reason when clearly it isn't.

I find most people cannot admit they are wrong, so protracted arguments are more beneficial to those readers who do not commit their positions to writing. Once an unreasonable person commits to a position, he likely will stay there especially without a financial reason to change.

Arguing from principles is difficult because people who have certain positions often have different goals. They will choose arguments that support their conclusions. They are not open minded. You can't agree with them on the premise such as life is more important than property. So you can't even begin to construct an argument.

Posted by: hippie at October 8, 2009 4:23 PM


Very refreshing, you are hippie!

" there is an intellectual honesty issue when claiming a position is based on reason when clearly it isn't".

We often hear that said here, but never in terms of the existence of God. Very brave of you.

Posted by: M at October 8, 2009 4:32 PM


Belief is a construct of the mind. Facts are not.

Posted by: hippie at October 8, 2009 3:34 PM
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Hmm... metaphysical quicksand. heh

Are you so certain that the knowledge of your absolute certainty is indeed factual? Or do you take it on faith at the very least that it is a fact? The etherial case you claim to know, is at some point based on a degree, perhaps a minute portion, but a portion nonetheless, of faith.

Let me put this another way: we don't know the smallest matter. In fact, as our understanding of physics and materials delve into tinier and tinier spaces, we find we really don't understand things at all. Likewise, when we go the other way, into grand physics, again all the knowledge seems to fragment and no longer apply.

We do not know for certain the wonder of it all, and it is unlikely in our human state, we ever will.

BTW - before posting I read down the remaining comments, and found that I'm making the same point Bobby already made. I think it's safe to say that the test of a verdict - "beyond a reasonable doubt" is far more articulate and reasonable, than to demand "beyond all doubt". One makes such claims on a preponderance of evidence, and if one is true to yourself, will come to a reasonable conclusion.

Good stuff.

Posted by: Chris Arsenault at October 8, 2009 5:08 PM


Yeah, I think so, hippie. I guess it becomes difficult to know what one is talking about when we use the word "proof" and what really constitutes proof. It's also easy to tie that idea up with knowledge. Like for me, I am MUCH more confident of the fact that say other minds exist or that abortion is evil than I am of, say, quantum mechanics or general relativity. And the latter I am very very confident of! But there are many metaphysical and other non-scientific claims like that that we all have much more confidence in the truth of than some scientific ones.

Posted by: Bobby Bambino Author Profile Page at October 8, 2009 5:26 PM



"Hmm... metaphysical quicksand. heh

Are you so certain that the knowledge of your absolute certainty is indeed factual? "

No, not absolutely. But hey, my perception of reality is all I have.

My knowledge doesn't define reality. But my knowledge is all I have. I can't know what I don't know.

I am very certain that my perception of reality doesn't define reality or facts. Facts/reality are independent of my perceptions.

Posted by: hippie at October 8, 2009 5:32 PM


"My knowledge doesn't define reality. But my knowledge is all I have. I can't know what I don't know. I am very certain that my perception of reality doesn't define reality or facts. Facts/reality are independent of my perceptions."

Very good insights, Hippie.

Posted by: Bobby Bambino Author Profile Page at October 8, 2009 5:41 PM


I am very certain that my perception of reality doesn't define reality or facts. Facts/reality are independent of my perceptions.

Posted by: hippie at October 8, 2009 5:32 PM
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I think that kind of acknowledgement is the key to intellectual honesty. I agree with Bobby - that's good insight.

Posted by: Chris Arsenault at October 9, 2009 6:51 AM


Its kinda of 'strange' though that the basis of all truth is a faith. Since intellectual 'grasping' is just that 'a plunge into what is not known, for certain'. 'The intellect' is at its base imperialistic and must be forced sway from such a stance. We as humans do not own truth as much as we relate to truth.

Veracity is solely a 'faith' rather than a 'truth'. Authority is often used as proving something but that is often a guess-timate [[a reliance on someone who 'knows', like a philosophy professor.

BTW I ran into a non-video version of this a few years back. The 'debunkers' on a web site dedicated-to-myth-busting said this event just did not happen at all. The role of Einstein was to give this some authority.

Posted by: John McDonell at October 9, 2009 8:50 AM