Thursday, February 15, 2007

Proofthatgodexists.org

I’ve seen this site listed by quite a few Christians recently, so I took a look at it yesterday. What follows is a brief sketch of my first reactions.

Existence
The author never defines existence. This is no simple problem. Consider the following sentence.

Prince’s album Camille will never be released.

There are two definitions of album that are relevant here: 1) a physical object of recorded media and 2) a collection of songs released together. Neither of these definitions can apply in the sentence because the album, as such, does not exist. Yet Prince scholars accept the sentence as, sadly, true. Some, but not all, of the songs for the album were recorded, but the project was abandoned before it was finished. Yet if we talk about the album, Prince fans will understand the referent, though none exists in the material world. I wonder, does the author of proofthatgodexists.org agree that the album exists in some sense?

The definition of existence is troubled not only by things that were nearly material, but by things that never were or will be.

Mary and I both believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

Simon and Peter denied the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Assume both of these sentences are true, the referents in the predicates are understood and agreed upon by the subjects, but those referents do not exist in a material sense. If the author accepted that Camille exists, does he accept that the Invisible Pink Unicorn and Flying Spaghetti Monster must exist in the same fashion? Notice I am not trying to get the author to admit that IPU or FSM are real, only clarify the definition of existence being used.

Truth
Similarly, we are never told what truths the author is including under “absolute truth.” This section does not lead to an essay, so it’s impossible to even guess. The majority of truths that are required to do science are of a material nature or have material implications. The truth value of statements like the following, though studied by logicians, is almost wholly irrelevant to science and everyday language.

If there are elephants on Mars, then it will rain in Seattle.

I think that the majority of scientists will hold that absolute truth exists for material things without recourse to a divine being.

The average person will believe or state many things that are either not true or too poorly defined to know the truth value. The relation between truth and psychological statements or other uses of everyday language are other matters entirely, and still not fully understood nor acceptably modeled by semanticists.

Logic and Mathematics
I don’t know why the proof separates these, as they are largely intertwined.

In the essay to challenge a disbelief in mathematics’ existence, the author asks naturalists to find the number three in nature. Not three things, he insists. That insistence seems largely ignorant of Set Theory as the possible foundation of mathematics. Notice, we also return to the question of what existence means.

The author also seems not to recognize that what we call logic and mathematics are models. If we formulated a consistent model of mathematics with no real world application, would that also necessarily prove god existed in the author’s estimation? What about an inconsistent and irrational model?

Morality
If you insist you believe in relative morality, you are taken to a short, patronizing essay asking if you really believe all morality is relative. This is intended to put the reader on the defensive and uses extreme examples of situations that our culture finds particularly immoral without pointing out that the average person of European descent does many things on a regular basis that other moral worldviews find equally immoral: eating meat, for example.

I think it’s fair that the author should be put on the defensive as well. Like many atheists, I left the church for moral reasons. So I ask the author how the source of objective morality could possibly be responsible for the atrocities of the Old Testament (for example, in Joshua when the Hebrews take the land promised to them). If god is the source of objective morality, this cannot be a case of “different time, different culture,” otherwise god’s objective standard has been changing.

Which God?
The author produces quotes from the Bible to attempt to demonstrate that only the Christian god could be the source of absolute truth, logic, mathematics, and objective morality. The author seems ignorant that many of the quotes produced would be accepted by both Jews and Moslems. Furthermore, if we assumed everything else written is true, then all these quotes can do is assert that the Christian understanding of god is one possibility. The author also needs to systematically demonstrate that all other gods cannot be the source.

2 comments:

Sye TenB said...

"I wonder, does the author of proofthatgodexists.org agree that the album exists in some sense?"

Well you could have asked ;-)
I believe in the existence of immaterial concepts, yes. The question is, how do you account for the 'immaterial' in a 'material' universe?

"If the author accepted that Camille exists, does he accept that the Invisible Pink Unicorn and Flying Spaghetti Monster must exist in the same fashion?"

Yip, immaterial concepts.

"Truth
Similarly, we are never told what truths the author is including under “absolute truth."

I'm not including any in particular, just the concept.

"I think that the majority of scientists will hold that absolute truth exists for material things without recourse to a divine being."

Is it absolutely true that you think this? If so, is this thought a material thing?

"The author also seems not to recognize that what we call logic and mathematics are models."

This is only an assertion, what is the argument? Are they man-made models, are they universally true?

"So I ask the author how the source of objective morality could possibly be responsible for the atrocities of the Old Testament (for example, in Joshua when the Hebrews take the land promised to them)."

Well actually you didn't ask me, I stumbled across your blog. By what standard do you call the happenings in the Old Testament 'atrocities?'

"If god is the source of objective morality, this cannot be a case of “different time, different culture,” otherwise god’s objective standard has been changing."

Hardly, God's standards for the Old Testaments Israelites are the same now as they were then. God's standards for those under the New Convenant, are the same now as they have always been.

"The author seems ignorant that many of the quotes produced would be accepted by both Jews and Moslems."

No, I address Islam on the site, and I am working on a refutation of Judaism.

"The author also needs to systematically demonstrate that all other gods cannot be the source."

Hardly. If I prove that there is an elephant in my driveway, I do not have to prove that it is not any other animal. If you or anyone else, wishes to posit another source for univeral, abstract, invariant laws, and the uniformity of nature, I will be happy to refute you.

If they let me into your "Last Fm' group, I'll debate you there.

If I have missed any questions, I apologize, but my time is limited.

Sye TenB said...

Forgive me for posting my response (to whoever made the post) here, but as you can see, our thread at Last FM has been locked. Wonder what they are afraid of?

"Canuckfish, if nothing else please define your absolute truth for us."

True for all people at all times.


"That due to perspective there is no truth that EVERYONE can agree on."


What about that one?


"The truths an individual holds cannot and do not transcend to other people."


and that one?

"And the reason why there are varying levels of "truth" is the same reason there are so many differing religions to begin with"

and that one? To what degree of truth are those statements?


"a difference of opinion, whether that comes from varying interpretation or experiences or disagreements on completely unverifiable "facts".


Is that statement absolutley true?


"The only valid argument you can make in a philosophical or theological sense is that you cannot logically have one without the other, but that's the chicken and the egg all over again."


For someone who denies absolute truth, you sure make alot of absolute truth claims!

"Molesting children is 'wrong' because the majority of people are of the opinion that it is."

Well I hope for the sake of children everywhere that molesting children never becomes right (since with your logic it could).

"Common opinion does not translate to your "absolute truth" or whatever you're deriving there."

I agree.


"But popular opinion both empowers and denies authority. That's how our society is currently structured. We give and take authority from politicians and police officers based on the common will of the people. There are different opinions on countless subjects, but the majority tends to win mainly since it inconveniences or upsets the fewest number of people."


Exactly, just like Nazi Germany. Morality is dictated by society, so with that thinking, it was right to kill Jews? (This is where you invoke the 'global society')


"The same goes with pedophilia since some obviously feel it's harmless while others feel it harms/exploits the child. Thusly, the opinion of one group of people trumps the opinion of another in the formation of law and enforcement, and regardless of how effective that system may or may not be, we're stuck with it for the moment."


Let me get this straight. If child molesters were in the majority, child molestation would be right?!?


"Religion is no different, and the only way it has any power over anything or anyone is if the people give it power and allow it to influence/control their lives."


This is question begging. Surely if God exists, that is not the case. Prove your case.

"Is not you yourself believing enough? Just be thankful that we live in a secular society where you can legally practice the religion of your choosing."

Like child sacrifice, female circumcision? You are forgetting the absolutes that our society is based on.

"A2: NO worldview is "true".

You never told me if this was true or not.

"That is my perspective, based on a myriad of other people's given perspectives and my own conclusions."

Pardon me, but why should I care what your perspective is?

"I actually listen to people, and try to respect others opinions."

Yes, me too.

"In fact, I try to learn as much as I possibly can of every person's opinion as long as they're willing."

Yes, me too.

"Why I'm so fervently opposed to yours is because you're attempting to pacify others and retard thought."

First, this is only an assertion, what is the argument?
Second, even if this was the case (which it is not), why don't you respect a person's right to pacify others and retard thought?

"If the great thinkers of the world simply ignored their reservations and refused to question the status quo some of the greatest, most powerful and most elegant concepts - ranging from natural selection to existentialism - might never have been conceived."

And what a mess we'd be in now :-) Surely you are not claiming that those views are true? If so, prove your case.

"So I'm highly averse to your line of thinking; one that tries to explain away all the troubles and questions of our world through one source. Life is not that black and white, regardless of how content the thought may make you."

This is only an assertion, what is the argument?

"...???? What? First off, let's just stop with the "truth" thing. If you want to speak of verifiable facts then fine, but truth is a benign and imprecise concept that allows you to keep speaking without presenting a real argument."

Um, is THAT statement true, if so, what are the verifiable facts which make it so. What's good for the goose...

"Secondly, there are vast philosophical fields of study which could help explain my comment from various pov such as "I think therefore I am".

And they are equally fallacious. Even Descartes statement only would go so far as indicating that there is only thinking going on somewhere in the universe, and not that he 'is'.

"I'm partial to the materialist perspective myself, but I'm really not sure what you're implying. Please clarify if you could."

Do you believe that everything in the universe is made of matter?

"Let's set something else straight; you cannot claim anything as "true" or "false" when it comes from a point of perspective."

Um. is THAT true?

"EVERYTHING you or I say, unless it can be verified positively or negative by both of us, is an opinion"

Well that's your opinion, not mine :-)

"The difference is that with science and mathematics all points of conjecture are derived from the world around us, and is relatively easy to refute through the tangible testing of material, or the numerical limitations of algebra."

Uh, wait, is this still opinion or is it true? I'm getting confused :-)

"More obscure ideas such as relativity and evolution can be tested mathematically and empirically but may be difficult for the average person to understand, no different than a conversation littered with capacious verbosity since the average man isn't likely as learned in the language of math or the facts behind the science. But again, those ideas are based on verifiable facts."

Alright, I'll stop flogging the dead horse (although it looks like you are making another truth claim). Let me ask you this: Do all beliefs require factual evidence in order to be reasonable?

"Religions are riddled with subjectivity; there are so many offering contrary opinions and ideas as to existence and purpose and creation, but none which offer any verifiable or testable evidence."

This is question begging. What is the argument? What is the verifiable testable evidence of evolution? (be sure to invoke your God in your answer (i.e. time))

"Scientists attempt to objectively view, document, and explain the world we see around us, and it has made various findings."

Sience is based on inductive reasoning. i.e. the belief that the future will be like the past. Science would be impossible without first assuming that nature is uniform. On what basis do YOU assume that nature is uniform?

"Religion, like philosophy, cannot be confirmed by anyone else since it is opinion based on perspective."

You really should stop making these claims, unless you preface them with 'it is my opinion that....'

"The bible offers no facts or testable examples of anything, since it is the culmination of opinions and ideas from many perspectives over varying subjects."

This is question begging and AGAIN, only your opinion.

"There are many people who have considered themselves to be the or a son of God, and likely just as many who have claimed to be Satan. What proof can you offer that any of these people are right or wrong when both your own limited perspective and their personal opinion prevent you from quantifying either?"

I have a revelealed source from an omniscient God that says it ain't so.

"A good example of this might be the idea of "grue", or "bleen". Let's say you have the colors blue and green, and two people comparing those colors. One points to the first color, stating it as "blue" and the second agrees. They then point to the second color stating it as "green" and the second agrees. But the first person cannot see through the second person's eyes. They agree on the name since they both associate that shade with that color. But in a literal or physical sense, "blue" to the second person could actually be what the first would consider green, or any other shade. The linguistic associations we've made with those colors have no bearing on what each person actually sees when they view them. Hence, while they may both agree in conversation they may both experience vastly different things. This is why perspective is important because you will not and physically cannot see through the eyes of another."

The problem is, you say that the colours that they are looking at ARE blue and green, how do you know?


"Truth" is an esoteric and unattainable concept."


Is that true? (There's that horse again)

"If you want to label your own experiences and opinions as "truth" in your own mind then do so, but do not attempt to impose that same perspective onto someone else as you do not know what they perceive."

Surely you can see the hypocrisy of that statement. That is EXACTLY what you are doing to me.

"If Christ did exist then he is arguably a great man, and you may believe what you will of him,"

Christ is (as C.S. Lewis puts it) either lying, lunatic or Lord, there is no option for 'great man.'

"but calling most Christians "Christian" is a near oxymoron."

I agree.

"If Jesus did promote love and understanding then most of you are really focusing on the wrong things in relation to his teachings and the rest of society. I think Ghandi summed this up quite well, and correct me if I mis-quote:

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."


Yes I've heard the quote. There is another good one that goes something like this: "The problem with Christianity is that many people have never met a Christian, and also, that some have."