Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possible?

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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby gauSSian » Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:31 am

I've given this question some thought and have come to the conclusion that there is nothing that could or ever would cause me to believe in a supernatural God, existing outside of the causal order, capable of violating the laws of nature at will etc.

Suppose a being manifested itself to humanity and began doing what we would consider miracles, creating matter/energy, raising the dead, altering gravity or time, etc. I would simply feel we were being visited by a being whose mastery of physics was so far advanced from ours that to us it would only seem as if magic was being performed.

How could I, or any other human being, discern magic (i.e. supernatural acts) from feats accomplished with technology perhaps billions of years ahead of ours?

I would be in awe, but most likely would not begin building a temple. :mrgreen:
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Don't you know though our kids are dumb, we got smart bombs, what a joyous thing!—Oingo Boingo, "War Again" (1993)
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby Lausten » Tue Apr 03, 2012 11:00 am

DJ wrote:I think your problem is....

I defend your right to have an opinion. That doesn't mean I have to agree with it.

You can use this forum to have rational discussions or you can resort to name calling and ignoring others. That's your choice.

Saying that you don't accept String Theory as a valid theory is not something I take personally, it is something that tells me about you and how you view science and how you consider information from other people. Take this article for example. Note it is not favorable to String Theory, but it still refers to it as String Theory. That's how you refute a scientific theory, by explaining its flaws. This is not a scientific article, so the details of the physics aren't discussed, but you should get the idea. Simply saying that physics can't really prove anything shows a lack of understanding of physics. You can write whatever you want. An expectation that people won't disagree with you and maybe even occasionally make a characterization is a bit beyond the bounds of discussion forums.

DJ said that I wrote:"You are a jerk!
Don't put things in quotes that I didn't write. You might want to read up on the assumed intent fallacy, sometimes called "mind-reading"
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby worldslaziestbusker » Tue Apr 03, 2012 12:00 pm

I've posted this at a number of haunts and hope no-one is bored or offended by another outing of

Signatures: what it would take to convince me we were designed (but which would still leave debate open about who the designer was)


Intelligent design proponents can point to almost anything as though it is the signature of a deity if they ignore the fact that anything capable of asking the question "who made that?" is likely so well adapted to its surroundings that everything it encounters would appear designer made for its purposes. This line of thinking must also ignore every part of that being that doesn't work particularly well and everything that might try to eat or parasitise the thing asking the question, these being signs of poor design on that thing’s behalf.

If a deity really wanted to stamp something with a maker's mark, they could do far better than the wishy-washy fitness of purpose that any ratcheting process of change could achieve just by adhering to physical laws. What would a deity do, to borrow from Douglas Adams, to put Slartibartfast's signature in the glacier?

Maths would be the communication channel of choice. You can communicate all sorts of complex ideas using languages, but if all you want to do is show another sentient being that you are also sentient, mapping it out with maths will bridge the gap when words fail you. Mathematical principles are universal, so any intelligent being could use them to illustrate that their understanding of their surroundings goes beyond that required to survive and reproduce.

In "2001: A Space Odyssey," Arthur C. Clarke imagined that a slab of hard material with proportions of 1:4:9, the squares of the first three integers, had been uncovered on the moon. While objects with that general shape might occur naturally, the mathematical operation behind the ratio and the precision with which it was illustrated told the human characters that the slab had been made by intelligent beings, and that those beings wanted humanity to come to that realisation. The mathematical message was so loud and clear that coincidence couldn’t be invoked as an explanation for the phenomenon.

A recent tongue in cheek guide to communicating with aliens proposed that when faced with the language barrier likely to exist in such a situation, you might draw a right triangle in the dust and place three stones on the shortest side, four on the next longest, and five on the hypotenuse, indicating you are at least intelligent enough to understand a basic concept of trigonometry. You mightn’t get the scale perfect, but the principle will be clear. While the aliens wouldn't know who Pythagoras was, or perhaps even be able to hear or make the sounds of that word, they would know the theorem and would recognise you as being capable of abstract thought.

If we get a probe to Europa and find a triangular land mass with offlying islands in the three, four, five configuration it would stand as strong evidence that intelligence was once at work there, though it might represent engineering by a very powerful being or race rather than the signature of a deity.

A maker keen to leave its creation a sign of its handiwork would have to find a medium that wouldn't erode or change configuration. The marker would have to last billions of years, which rules out messing about with land masses. Even on geologically inert planets, the scope for the evidence to be erased by catastrophic impacts would make mountains or landmasses a poor long term messenger prospect. Far better to leave the mark on something numerous, so obliteration of one version of the signature didn’t erase the entirety. Some form on Von Neumann machine would be favourite, so it could regenerate itself from local resources any time the signature vessel got a bit beaten up.

Would a creator perhaps write pi, or some similarly significant mathematical principle, into the DNA of the organisms it created? Using base pairings as ones and zeroes, it could write pi in binary form. Base pairs mutate quickly on the time scale under consideration so perhaps longer, repeated strings of relatively stable base pair sequences could act as the ones and zeroes, so that mutations didn't alter the message too much over time, and even a sizeable degradation in message integrity could still make a readable signature, giving the system a longer shelf life.

Of course, a deity could program the system such that when organisms within the system became sufficiently adept at looking into such things, the message would appear in its perfect form.

I wonder if anyone at the Discovery Institute is looking for a creator, waving at us from our DNA . If they’re not, they should be. All the irreducible complexity hand waving is pathetic. What if pi was embedded in the DNA of every cell in your body? There's no reason for it to be there. It would be a work of art, its only function being to be itself. What if something even more valuable came of the study, like a mathematical recipe for generating stable worm hole configurations that could allow us to explore the universe. I’d certainly have to re-think a lot of stuff, even if all we got was the score for “Happy Birthday to You, or a picture of a smiley face poking its tongue out. That would still be the most astounding discovery in human history.

When presented with this possible avenue of investigation, I suspect many theists will try to hedge around the idea with the "if a god revealed themselves, it would be a negation of people's faith," swerve. This is a common dodge applied when calls for evidence to justify a religious position on real world issues is called for, but the fact that intelligent design proponents are engaged in attempts at finding evidence in support of a creator negates the potential objection.

Another counter argument might run that the need to retro-engineer DNA to produce particular proteins destroys the possibility that a creator could use the molecules as a means to communicate a mathematical message. This would not be a valid objection. If you want to posit a being that can marshal matter to its will to the extent it did in short order what would otherwise take billions of years of evolution to achieve, don't short change it on the awe inducing attributes. The omnimax paradox makes a convincing case that no being can be omnipotent and omniscient, causing some theologians to redefine the words, leaving their almighty gods able to do any possible thing, but that’s the realm of very powerful or long lived beings, and not very god like. The difficulty we would have incorporating a significant message in DNA should not be allowed to stand in the way of intelligent design proponents taking up this challenge. If you want to posit a deity, don’t try to weasle out of defining it as an actual deity and possessing the requisite god-like abilities, otherwise any intelligent, long lived being could qualify as a creator. Even someone form the current crop of biogenisis researchers might qualify before too long.

Intelligent design proponents have no excuse to not take up this opportunity to investigate an extant data set with extant tools. The SETI program has been looking for mathematically interesting patterns in huge data sets for many years and the human genome project has generated the necessary input to set this style of investigation in motion. Searching our DNA for an unambiguous sign of design is doable. A positive result would put an end to debate about our origins as it would clearly show that design was involved at some point. A negative result wouldn’t be conclusive either way on the matter of the possible existence of a creator, but it would show that any being involved in establishing life on Earth had either not spotted the opportunity, or held no desire, to communicate with its creation in an unambiguous and convincing manner.

I don’t think the positive result is likely, but if the creationists are serious about pointing finding evidence of intelligent design, they should put their money where their mouth is and seek evidence that could silence their critics forever. If nothing else, it should get them to shut the fuck up for about six months while they do the work, and that alone would count as a positive result for all humanity.
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby gauSSian » Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:58 pm

String theory, or M-theory as Dr. Witten ingeniously unified the various superstring theories into, will have to wait for technology to catch up to being able to test any predictions it makes. My understanding of physics is nowhere close to being able to understand any of the theory. :lol:

One compelling argument I have read is that M-theory, if "shaken the right way," will let loose the theory of gravity as given by Einstein in his theory of general relativity.
Living in their pools, They soon forget about the sea...— Rush, "Natural Science" (1980)

Don't you know though our kids are dumb, we got smart bombs, what a joyous thing!—Oingo Boingo, "War Again" (1993)
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby BahRayMew » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:24 pm

Lausten wrote:This is a philosophical statement of “you can’t prove anything”. Obviously. I know we start with assumptions, since we don’t know everything, that’s how we proceed with science. Saying that means we can’t describe the universe with physics is ridiculous.

No it's not, and it's a gross misrepresentation of what DJ was saying. Just because you have a description does not mean your description is accurate. It makes no difference if that description happens to be in math. Describing God with math would just be as futile as saying "God exists."

All math can do is allow you to derive conclusions which are consistent with premises which are already presumed or known. Your model is only as powerful as the assumptions you use to construct it. Or as DJ put it, the conclusions of a model are only true within its own axioms.

There's a reason a thing like the Ideal Gas Law is called "ideal." It presumes that the gas being described isn't actually real, but abstract. But this is still a useful approximation for some purposes.

In any case, you're not making any effort to understand DJ's position and then proceed to try and prove that he doesn't accept any new arguments, instead of actually, you know, trying to refute the argument itself. You're free to have the opinion that DJ is an obstinate ass, but that's completely off-topic. That's the real problem here. You're derailing the thread with bullshit.
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby DjVortex » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:37 pm

While it may be philosophically so that nothing can ever be proven to an absolute degree of certainty (which is why we have all kinds of philosophical alternative abstractions such as solipsism and nihilism), the most practical and useful way of discerning how the universe works is by applying the scientific method in the most materialistic sense: If we can observe, measure and test something, then it's very likely to, at the very least, exist (even if we yet not fully understand all of its properties). If an abstract concept cannot be observed, measured nor tested, not even indirectly, and if has no discernible unambiguous effect on the real world, then the most rational default position is to not accept that it exists, until its existence has been corroborated by those methods. (I think one term used to describe this principle is "evidentialism".)

Using the scientific method we can predict the existence of something, even if we have not yet observed it. (Two good examples of this are the existence of black holes and dark matter.) In a way, we could say that we are "extrapolating" from existing observations to something that has yet to be observed, but should happen if the model described by the theory is correct. However, although we may be almost completely certain that the predicted thing exists, we cannot assert that for sure until observation and measurements corroborate it. (Even though the vast majority of physicists are certain that black holes exist, they would nevertheless love nothing more than somehow be able to observe one directly to corroborate that they indeed do. Their existence is not taken for granted in the sense that scientists do not even feel the need to check for sure, if it were possible.)

The more things a scientific theory describes and predicts correctly, the more that it corresponds to actual observation, the more reliable it can be considered. For example, there's ample experimental evidence that the general theory of relativity is a pretty accurate description of how the macroscopic world works, which is why no serious scientist doubts that it's at the very least a really good approximation. It also has plenty of practical applications that just work. Of course it doesn't explain everything, but what it does, it seems to work very well in practice.

String "theory", on the other hand, has a rather poor track record at this. There are no observations, measurements nor practical experiments that would corroborate its basic tenets, it does not make predictions that could be corroborated in practice, and it has no practical applications. Is it an incorrect theory? I don't know. Is it internally consistent and without contradictions? Possibly. However, without evidence the only correct position on it is the same as with theism: That of not accepting something at face value without proper evidence. Any predictions that the theory makes lack reliability because no predictions have been corroborated.

So to go back to the original question, can the existence of a god be proven beyond all reasonable doubt? I suppose it depends on the actual definition of "god".

If this "god" could be observed and measured by physical means, it would make it a natural entity. By definition (or more precisely, by the most common definition) a "god" is supernatural (whatever that might mean, either philosophically or in the materialistic sense) and thus cannot be observed nor measured. If it cannot be observed or measured, then its existence cannot be proved using the scientific method.

Is there any other reliable way of proving the existence of a supernatural god? I have yet to see one.
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby Lausten » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:11 pm

Prior to the derailing, where I was leading was, I would accept that God exists if a multiplicity of scientific disciplines provided evidence and corroborated on it. String theory was just an example. I was thinking it would start there. Some formula would reveal a clue, or maybe an experiment would result in some form of mathematical message. That message would be used to uncover other evidence, say it gave clues that led to the discovery of a black hole. The experiment would be repeated and more evidence would be found. Eventually we would learn to run the experiment in a way that we could ask questions. It might lead us to look for archaelogical evidence in places we never thought to look, or help us interpret ancient languages and clear up questions about scriptures. Hopefully it would help us actually solve problems and wouldn't limit who it helped to just one country or race. And hopefully it would explain why it didn't help us before.

That would do it for me.
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby Lausten » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:21 pm

bahray wrote:That's the real problem here.

First of all, chill out.

Second, there is a physics forum, maybe you should go argue with them.

Here they closed a question about proof because it was too vague.

Here is the actual question at hand. Or about as close as I can find.
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby Fyrebrand » Sat Apr 28, 2012 5:34 am

If there is indeed a God, then yes, proof is possible. And God can provide us with that proof, whenever he wants to. He just has to... you know... leave a footprint, or a DNA sample, or something.

However, in this universe, we unfortunately seem to be stuck with a God who doesn't want to be found. Whenever we seem to be getting close to understanding him and his mysterious creations, he slips away at the last moment and replaces all his hard work with "evolution," "chemistry," "physics," or some other lame science mumbo-jumbo.

God, if you're reading this, could you please just cut the hide-and-seek act, just for a few minutes, and prove to us once and for all that you're real? You're GOD -- if anyone can fudge the logic and come up with some ridiculous loophole in which you're real, you can! Give us some of that old-time God Magic™, like you do in all your books.


Aaaaauuughh... sorry everyone, I tried my best. As long as God keeps deciding to take the proverbial ball and go home, there's nothing we can do. If he doesn't want to be found, we're not going to find him. It's like he doesn't even care what his continued absence is doing for his image -- this stubborn "no manifestations whatsoever" policy just puts him down there at the same level as all those fake gods, like Zeus or Thor. But of course, they're all different. There's no reason to believe in them, because there's no evidence for... er, what I mean is... there's no way to prove that they ever... uh...

Oh.
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Re: Is definitive proof for the existence of God even possib

Postby DjVortex » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:39 pm

Fyrebrand wrote:If there is indeed a God, then yes, proof is possible. And God can provide us with that proof, whenever he wants to. He just has to... you know... leave a footprint, or a DNA sample, or something.


Yet my point is: Even if we had some physical evidence, such as "DNA" (even though by definition God wouldn't have DNA because he's supernatural, iow. not consisting of atoms of this universe), would that be evidence of God, or would it be simply evidence for something we otherwise don't know or understand at all? (In other words, it would be evidence of something, but what exactly?)
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