Defining God

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Moonbear said:
God is a term used to explain things people cannot understand when they refuse to accept that not everything about our physical world can be understood all at once. Just because we don't know an answer to something now doesn't mean we won't find an answer. We laugh now at the beliefs of the ancient Romans and Greeks with their numerous mythological gods to explain things we now know are perfectly explainable, yet still want to hang onto our own mythology to explain many things still remaining to be answered.
You miss the real point here. Science is not going to answer metaphysical questions ever. Not in a billion years. This is just a fact, nothing to do with my opinion. I suspect one day we'll look back the current scientific view much as you do the Roman pantheon of Gods. Either that or we'll have to stay ignorant forever. If we stick to the scientific method of explaining the world then people will be arguing about the existence of God until the universe ends.
 
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  • #227
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Danae Legrow said:
starthrower... prove to me that there is no god.

You wouldn't understand the proof, it is too complex for your mind to follow.

Regards,

Star
 
  • #228
Moonbear
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Canute said:
You miss the real point here. Science is not going to answer metaphysical questions ever. Not in a billion years. This is just a fact, nothing to do with my opinion. I suspect one day we'll look back the current scientific view much as you do the Roman pantheon of Gods. Either that or we'll have to stay ignorant forever. If we stick to the scientific method of explaining the world then people will be arguing about the existence of God until the universe ends.

Metaphysical is on a sliding scale. Something only appears to be metaphysical until a physical explanation is found. Different people are comfortable with different degrees of uncertainty. I'm comfortable with knowing there are a lot of things I don't know, can't explain, and don't understand. I'm also comfortable with knowing there are many things nobody knows, nobody can explain and nobody understands. And I'm also comfortable knowing that many of these things will not be explained in my lifetime. However, that is not sufficient for me to believe there are no answers to those questions within the physical world. Other people cannot fathom there can be an explanation for these things, or that there are things that happen according to the laws of nature and not for a greater purpose. Those people are not comfortable with uncertainty, so need to believe in a god to explain the things they don't understand. If that is what they need to believe to get through life, that's fine. I'm not arguing against people who believe in god, in fact, I wasn't arguing anything, just stating my own personal view of what god is, according to the topic of the thread. So, quite frankly, I didn't miss any point because there was no point to begin with.
 
  • #229
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Moonbear said:
Metaphysical is on a sliding scale. Something only appears to be metaphysical until a physical explanation is found.
This is a misunderstanding of what metaphysics is. Metaphysics is where science puts unanswerable questions, not questions it's going to answer later.

Different people are comfortable with different degrees of uncertainty. I'm comfortable with knowing there are a lot of things I don't know, can't explain, and don't understand. I'm also comfortable with knowing there are many things nobody knows, nobody can explain and nobody understands.
Ok, but you speak for yourself.

And I'm also comfortable knowing that many of these things will not be explained in my lifetime. However, that is not sufficient for me to believe there are no answers to those questions within the physical world.
But we know that there are many questions that cannot be answered by study of the physical world. We've known that for millenia, and it's not even a contentious issue within science.

Those people are not comfortable with uncertainty, so need to believe in a god to explain the things they don't understand.
I don't know how you arrive at that conclusion.

If that is what they need to believe to get through life, that's fine.
What matters is what's true. It's just as easy to say what you say here about people who hold the scientific view.

I'm not arguing against people who believe in god, in fact, I wasn't arguing anything,
You said God was a crutch for the weak. That sounds like an argument to me.
 
  • #230
StarThrower said:
You wouldn't understand the proof, it is too complex for your mind to follow.

Regards,

Star

try me... :cool:
 
  • #231
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canute said
But we know that there are many questions that cannot be answered by study of the physical world. We've known that for millenia, and it's not even a contentious issue within science.

examples please.
 
  • #232
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sage said:
canute said
But we know that there are many questions that cannot be answered by study of the physical world. We've known that for millenia, and it's not even a contentious issue within science. examples please.
All metaphysical questions are examples, since they are defined as beyond science's ability to answer. For instances would include the questions of why there is something rather than nothing, what is 'essence', what 'caused' or 'preceeded' the Big Bang, whether freewill exists, whether consciousness is causal etc.

A specific example would be the in principle inability of science to explain what matter is. In his autobiography ‘The Making of a Philosopher’ Roger McGinn simply and clearly outlines a number of the problems caused by the presence of unanswerable questions within the Western tradition of philosophy.

He describes how he was baffled in his youth by the ancient ‘problem of attributes’, and relates his attempt to reduce an old fashioned red letterbox, somewhere in Brighton if I remember rightly, to its essence by taking away all of its peceivable aspects and conceivable attributes one by one.

His conclusion was that doing this forces one to choose between a paradoxical conclusion and an insoluble logical problem, for one is forced to conclude that letter boxes, indeed all physical phenomena, have no essence underlying their external attributes, for essence can not possibly have attributes if ex hypothesis you have taken them all away. In this case, and in some very real way, the universe does not exist and is merely an illusion. There is nothing at the heart of everything.

The problem is a metaphysical one, not solvable scientifically even though it concerns the nature of matter.
 
  • #233
Moonbear
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Canute said:
This is a misunderstanding of what metaphysics is. Metaphysics is where science puts unanswerable questions, not questions it's going to answer later.

But how do you know a question is unanswerable? My contention is that there are no unanswerable questions, just ones that we do not yet know how to answer.

Canute said:
Ok, but you speak for yourself.
Exactly! I was speaking for myself, my own opinions. That's all the poll asked. It didn't ask for us to judge the opinions of others.

Canute said:
But we know that there are many questions that cannot be answered by study of the physical world. We've known that for millenia, and it's not even a contentious issue within science.

It's not a contentious issue within science because scientists agree that there is a physical explanation to all observable phenomena, even if that explanation remains to be determined.

Canute said:
You said God was a crutch for the weak. That sounds like an argument to me.
Those are your words, not mine. I never argued any such thing.
 
  • #234
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Moonbear said:
But how do you know a question is unanswerable? My contention is that there are no unanswerable questions, just ones that we do not yet know how to answer.
This is not the case unfortunately. Metaphysical questions are unanswerable by science in principle. Such questions are defined as being beyond science, which is why there is such a thing a 'metaphysics' in the first place.

Exactly! I was speaking for myself, my own opinions. That's all the poll asked. It didn't ask for us to judge the opinions of others.
Quite right. I was just noting that what you said may not be true.

It's not a contentious issue within science because scientists agree that there is a physical explanation to all observable phenomena, even if that explanation remains to be determined.
Strange as it may seem scientists who think about philosophy conclude the science cannot explain everything. Consider this, if everything observable has a scientific explanation then where does the explanation start and end? It cannot be with a physical sunstance because then that substance would need explaining and so on ad infinitum. This is why science cannot go all the way back to t=0 or explain what matter's made of etc.
 
  • #235
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why there is something rather than nothing?
define the terms something and nothing.
what is 'essence'? i have never heard of the term before. please elaborate.
what 'caused' or 'preceeded' the Big Bang, ?
perhaps big bang was created when an eleven dimensional brane interacted with another of its kind. maybe the question is meaningless as time can only be defined in the context of the big bang.quite possible as it seems time maybe only an approximation of some time independant quantum effects on the planck scale, just as notions of space are. these answeres maybe wrong.but that does not mean the question can never be answered by science in future.
what matter is?
i shall add a few more questions.
what is time?
what is space?
what is force?
what is charge?...
what kind of an explanation do you need. personally i believe these are names given to some observable phenomena of our universe. then the properties that they have under various circumstances should constitute an answer . thus charge becomes a property of a group of entities by virtue of which their motions interact with each other in a certain manner(attract or repel). similarly one can in principle answer the other questions. that such an answer to "what matter is" have not yet been totally elucidated does not mean it cannot be answered in future. it is a valid SCIENTIFIC QUESTION REQUIRING A VALID SCIENTIFIC ANSWER.
whether freewill exists?
you shall have do define what do you mean by free will. the brain(yourself) has at any momment a wide no. of choices from which it(you) chooses that which seems to it(you) the most suitable one given its(yours) past experiances.whether you think this is freewill is ultimately upto you.
quotation-"His conclusion was that doing this forces one to choose between a paradoxical conclusion and an insoluble logical problem, for one is forced to conclude that letter boxes, indeed all physical phenomena, have no essence underlying their external attributes, for essence can not possibly have attributes if ex hypothesis you have taken them all away. In this case, and in some very real way, the universe does not exist and is merely an illusion. There is nothing at the heart of everything"

very very very very very vague logic with an equally vague and meaningless conclusion.i have nothing against philosophy but i HAVE COMPLETELY LOST THE PLOT HERE.
 
  • #236
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"The Why of it all"

It is my assumption, and it is a great big one, that the very reason why we attempt to answer and do answer questions, is to find the cause of it all. What sense does it make to try and answer questions, with no reason for them being placed, for us to find.
 
  • #237
Moonbear
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Canute said:
This is not the case unfortunately. Metaphysical questions are unanswerable by science in principle. Such questions are defined as being beyond science, which is why there is such a thing a 'metaphysics' in the first place.

You can define the term metaphysics any way you want. The challenge is to demonstrate that the questions you are assigning into that categorical definition actually belong there. You're imposing the limitations of our current knowledge of the physical world upon predictions of what limitations will exist in the future. This talk of "essences" actually sounds more like you're imposing the limitations of centuries ago, when the 4 elements were defined as earth, wind, fire and water and our bodies were made up of essences.


Canute said:
Quite right. I was just noting that what you said may not be true.
But it was true. The only truth I claimed in my original statement was that it was my opinion. Do you intend to suggest I do not know my own opinion?



Canute said:
Strange as it may seem scientists who think about philosophy conclude the science cannot explain everything. Consider this, if everything observable has a scientific explanation then where does the explanation start and end? It cannot be with a physical sunstance because then that substance would need explaining and so on ad infinitum. This is why science cannot go all the way back to t=0 or explain what matter's made of etc.

Actually, scientists who think about philosophy conclude that philosophers either 1) ask imprecise questions, or 2) don't know enough about science to support their arguments, or 3) start every argument with a set of assumptions that may or may not be true, which are selected only for the convenience of making their argument possible.

Where does the explanation start and end? I don't know yet, we haven't gotten there. It doesn't mean there won't be a discovery that provides the key to explaining everything. You say that science cannot explain what matter is made of. The problem in asking what matter is made of is that the definition of matter is very broad, so the question really is too imprecise. Perhaps you're more interested in what makes up a neutrino? What gives them their properties? Centuries ago, even the idea of discovering the atom was unfathomable. To suggest that seemingly solid and unmoving objects are made up of lots of smaller, constantly moving components probably would have gotten someone burned at the stake for heresy. For a very long time, science seemed content that the atom was the smallest physical structure, the most basic component of all matter. Then electrons, protons and neutrons were discovered. Now even smaller components have been discovered, such as neutrinos. Indeed, how can you predict that someone in a lab somewhere won't have a mishap and accidentally discover a way for new matter to arise de novo. I would avoid the terms something and nothing because they are incredibly imprecise and may be misleading. Afterall, they have been defined according to one another. Nothing is the absence of something. However, in the process of discovery, "nothing" may very well be found to be something.
 
  • #238
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sage said:
why there is something rather than nothing?
define the terms something and nothing.
what is 'essence'? i have never heard of the term before. please elaborate.
what 'caused' or 'preceeded' the Big Bang, ?
perhaps big bang was created when an eleven dimensional brane interacted with another of its kind. maybe the question is meaningless as time can only be defined in the context of the big bang.quite possible as it seems time maybe only an approximation of some time independant quantum effects on the planck scale, just as notions of space are. these answeres maybe wrong.but that does not mean the question can never be answered by science in future.
These are not scientific questions. Questions of ultimate orgins and the nature of essence are metaphysical questions (according to scientists).


... that such an answer to "what matter is" have not yet been totally elucidated does not mean it cannot be answered in future. it is a valid SCIENTIFIC QUESTION REQUIRING A VALID SCIENTIFIC ANSWER.
'What is matter' is a metaphysical question, not a scientific one. This isn't my opinion, it follows from the unfalsifiablity of idealism and the undecidability of the problem of attributes.

whether freewill exists? you shall have do define what do you mean by free will.
Science declares that freewill is an illusion. In fact there is no scientific evidence either way. It's a metaphysical question, defined as such by science (not by me). Similarly with materialism for instance, which is another metaphysical theory untestable by science.

quotation-"His conclusion was that doing this forces one to choose between a paradoxical conclusion and an insoluble logical problem, for one is forced to conclude that letter boxes, indeed all physical phenomena, have no essence underlying their external attributes, for essence can not possibly have attributes if ex hypothesis you have taken them all away. In this case, and in some very real way, the universe does not exist and is merely an illusion. There is nothing at the heart of everything"

very very very very very vague logic with an equally vague and meaningless conclusion.i have nothing against philosophy but i HAVE COMPLETELY LOST THE PLOT HERE.
It's worth reading the book, McGinn is one of the clearest writers around on these topics.
 
  • #239
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Moonbear said:
You can define the term metaphysics any way you want.
I disagree, only confusion would result. The normal definition makes it the study of what lies beyond or after science, usually including the nature of reality, being and knowing.

The challenge is to demonstrate that the questions you are assigning into that categorical definition actually belong there. You're imposing the limitations of our current knowledge of the physical world upon predictions of what limitations will exist in the future. This talk of "essences" actually sounds more like you're imposing the limitations of centuries ago, when the 4 elements were defined as earth, wind, fire and water and our bodies were made up of essences.
I'm not imposing anything, honest. The question of essence is a metaphysical question and it always will be. I couldn't alter this fact if I wanted to.

But it was true. The only truth I claimed in my original statement was that it was my opinion. Do you intend to suggest I do not know my own opinion?
But is it your own opinion, or is it true? Here you say it's both.

Actually, scientists who think about philosophy conclude that philosophers either 1) ask imprecise questions, or 2) don't know enough about science to support their arguments, or 3) start every argument with a set of assumptions that may or may not be true, which are selected only for the convenience of making their argument possible.
Scientists who do not think about philosophy think this. Philsophy is not some optional discipline that can be avoided. It isn't possible to do science without philosophising, or vice versa.

Where does the explanation start and end? I don't know yet, we haven't gotten there. It doesn't mean there won't be a discovery that provides the key to explaining everything. You say that science cannot explain what matter is made of. The problem in asking what matter is made of is that the definition of matter is very broad, so the question really is too imprecise.
I don't see why. Also, I thought you were saying that it could be answered.

Perhaps you're more interested in what makes up a neutrino? What gives them their properties? Centuries ago, even the idea of discovering the atom was unfathomable. To suggest that seemingly solid and unmoving objects are made up of lots of smaller, constantly moving components probably would have gotten someone burned at the stake for heresy.
I think it was obvious from the start, certainly from the Greeks onwards.

For a very long time, science seemed content that the atom was the smallest physical structure, the most basic component of all matter. Then electrons, protons and neutrons were discovered. Now even smaller components have been discovered, such as neutrinos. Indeed, how can you predict that someone in a lab somewhere won't have a mishap and accidentally discover a way for new matter to arise de novo.
Atoms, neutrinos, quarks, superstrings, vibrating branes in 28 dimensions, it's turtles all the way, as Terry Pratchett would say, either that or ex nihilo creation. If you try to explain matter by reduction then you get an infinite regression and no end to the explanation. This is the problem.
 
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  • #240
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God is nothing.
I mean nothing as if it was a thing.
Every thing comes from nothing and returns to nothing.
Nothing is all together.

God is all; All is nothing; Nothing is God!

Nothing got nothing to change, because and therefore, nothing is constant!
 
  • #241
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canute said
"Atoms, neutrinos, quarks, superstrings, vibrating branes in 28
dimensions, it's turtles all the way, as Terry Pratchett would say,
either that or ex nihilo creation. If you try to explain matter by
reduction then you get an infinite regression and no end to the
explanation. This is the problem."

the turtles end at planck length.it has to for obvious reasons. what is happening at plack length is the central problem of physics and there are various theories competing with each other offering different views of planck scale phenomenon. future will tell us which of them will succeed. but that is not the point. the point is thesequestions are scientific questions and not metaphysical ones(in fact there are no metaphysical questions).

canute said
"
These are not scientific questions. Questions of ultimate orgins and
the nature of essence are metaphysical questions (according to
scientists). "


once again what is essence? why are the questions metaphysical? what is
wrong with the explanation i have given, are those exlanations not scientific?
which theory says that science cannot answer them? i do not care if some
scientists believe that the questions are metaphysical,what i care about is
whether science has justified such a belief.there is a difference between
scientists and science the former being a human being all of whose opinions
cannot have basis in proofs or observations and hence cannot be scientific.
so canute you must justify your assertion before i accept it.

canute said
"What is matter' is a metaphysical question, not a scientific one.
This isn't my opinion, it follows from the unfalsifiablity of
idealism and the undecidability of the problem of attributes"

a bit more elaboration will be welcome.

canute said
"In fact there is no
scientific evidence either way. It's a metaphysical question,
defined as such by science (not by me)."

i am going to dispute your claim vehemently. having read 2-3 scientific
books on free will, consciousness etc. i am not prepared to accept your claim
that science has declared free will as beyond its bound.knowing nothing what
so ever about materialism i am going to pass this on to anyone more knowledgable
about this.

regarding macginn, i will try to find the book. a brief note on what you
have understood from it will be welcome in the meantime.
 
  • #242
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sage said:
canute said ...snip

the turtles end at planck length.it has to for obvious reasons.
What do you mean by obvious reasons?

what is happening at plack length is the central problem of physics
A fact that I take to slightly support my suggestion that science has to turn to metaphysics at some point in explaining matter.

and there are various theories competing with each other offering different views of planck scale phenomenon. future will tell us which of them will succeed. but that is not the point. the point is thesequestions are scientific questions and not metaphysical ones(in fact there are no metaphysical questions).
I think you'll find it's not easy to imagine a complete scientific explanation of matter. As soon as you say that it's made out of 'x' you can ask what 'x' is made out of.

I sort of agree about metaphysical questions but not completely. It seems clear that such questions have incorrect assumptions built into them, as a logical positivist would argue, and that this is why thay are unanswerable. However the question then becomes one of which of these assumptions are false, which amounts to an equivalent metaphysical question.

For instance the question of idealism/materialism is undecidable. The question is not obviously meaningless so it must therefore embody a false assumption. But where is it?


once again what is essence? why are the questions metaphysical? what is wrong with the explanation i have given, are those exlanations not scientific?
Essence is what things are made out of, the 'ultimate substrate' of everything. It is beyond scientific investigation and thus is deemed a 'metaphysical substance'. Kant called it the 'noumenal', the 'thing in itself', others call it the 'absolute' or 'ultimate reality' etc. Plato said it was what lay outside his allegorical cave.

which theory says that science cannot answer them?
There's no theory, it is simply entailed by the (modern) definition of science that metaphysics exists, and that metaphysical questions are unanswerable by science.

i do not care if some scientists believe that the questions are metaphysical,what i care about is whether science has justified such a belief.there is a difference between scientists and science the former being a human being all of whose opinions cannot have basis in proofs or observations and hence cannot be scientific. so canute you must justify your assertion before i accept it.
I'm only agreeing with nearly everyone else. Perhaps 'Objectivists' deny the existence of metaphysics, but I'm not sure even they do.

canute said
"What is matter' is a metaphysical question, not a scientific one.
This isn't my opinion, it follows from the unfalsifiablity of
idealism and the undecidability of the problem of attributes"

a bit more elaboration will be welcome.
You'd be better reading a decent general book on philosophy, but in a nutshell - if idealism is unfalsifiable then we cannot prove that matter is fundamental. We therefore cannot complete any scientific 'ontological' explanation of it. The problem of attributes is slightly different. It entails that whatever matter is made of, in the final reductionist analysis, it must be something with no external attributes. Such a substance is clearly beyond scientific investigation. Both problems are the really the same. (This relates to the scientific 'problem of consciousness' and the 'hard problem', but I won't go there).

i am going to dispute your claim vehemently. having read 2-3 scientific books on free will, consciousness etc. i am not prepared to accept your claim that science has declared free will as beyond its bound.knowing nothing what so ever about materialism i am going to pass this on to anyone more knowledgable about this.
Science hasn't declared it beyond science, and I don't suppose it ever will. However there are logical reasons for supposing it is. Some of them are here:

http://jamaica.u.arizona.edu/~chalmers/papers/montreal.html [Broken]

regarding macginn, i will try to find the book. a brief note on what you have understood from it will be welcome in the meantime.
It's really an autobiography focsusing on his intellectual development, so does not go into anything deeply. However its simplicity is what makes it worth reading. Some writers have the knack of simplifying (unlike yours truly).
 
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  • #243
Kerrie
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i think this thread has gone long enough, it doesn't seem that we are defining "god" in a philosophical manner too much.
 

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