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What's your opinion?

  1. Aug 13, 2007 #1
    One may say: "prove that god exists".

    This may be followed by: "well, prove that god doesn't exist".

    The real question is, which of the above questions is more appropriate to ask?

    Is there even an answer? Is one more appropriate than the other?

    My opinion is, yes, one of the above questions is wrong to ask.

    All religion and all faith aside, there has yet to be found any definitive evidence for a god. Nothing that can be observed, even with our best scientific instruments, has even suggested the existence of a god.

    It is therefore a fact that a claim that god exists is an extraordinary claim. And extraordinary claims dictate the need for proof or evidence.

    If I said I had the ability to levitate objects with my mind, you might ask to me to prove it. This would of course be a legitimate request, simply because science has yet to find any evidence for telekinesis.

    Now, imagine that I responded by saying "hey, prove that I can't"!

    Most would agree that this response is ridiculous, and does nothing to support my extraordinary claim.

    With that in mind, it is my opinion that anyone who asks you for proof that god doesn’t exist, is not to be taken seriously at all.

    Again, a claim that a god exists is, at the moment, an extraordinary claim. As Carl Sagan once said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

    Only when there is a lack of evidence will people resort to ridiculous counter-questions such as "prove me wrong".

    The burden of proof should always lie with the person making the extraordinary claim.

    Any opinions on this are welcome.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 13, 2007 #2
    Hmm, I can't remember the exact policy on threads like these but I hope it turns out to be good and that it doesn't get locked.

    Anyway, I think the burden of proof always rests on the shoulders of the one who makes the claim. Of course, some would say that claiming there is no god is an extraordinary claim itself, but I disagree. To say there is no evidence that suggests there is a god is perfectly reasonable because the claim is true: there is no tangible and universal evidence accepted by all.

    The problem with the challenge of proving there isn't a god or deity of any kind is the same problem we face when proving Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or magical space pixies don't exist. It's impossible to disprove the existence of something we don't have any evidence for. The major fallacy drawn by theists is that because we cannot prove a god does not exist, there must be one in existence.
  4. Aug 13, 2007 #3
    First, what is this 'god' that you're asking "does it exist?" of?
  5. Aug 13, 2007 #4
    This argument is not without extra assumptions it seems.

    Why should anyone demand extraordinary evidence of extraordinary claims? That was never specified. In legal matters, burden of proof and the level of certainty required in a case have very specific justifications.

    Is it enough to meet a "balance of probabilities" (aka preponderance of evidence")? Or should we be looking for certainty "beyond a reasonable doubt?"

    More importantly, if you're going to argue that we must demand one level of certainty over the other, you better be able to give reason as to why you're justified in your views. You're not talking about depriving a man of his freedom or life, so I don't see how anyone could possibly make the highest demands of this kind of claim. It's just too trivial a matter to everyday living.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2007
  6. Aug 13, 2007 #5
    In defense of the original poster:

    Although nothing was specified in terms of claims and evidence, it was Carl Sagan who said "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

    Anyway, the rest of the argument is bunk. We cannot even begin to say whether evidence is enough for a balance of probabilities or it is enough to make one believe beyond a reasonable doubt... there is NO EVIDENCE to begin with! Any and all propositions or support for a powerful deity outside of ancient books and writings has always led to dead-ends.

    I highly disagree that the belief in a god is a trivial matter. For the big three monotheistic religions, it is huge. Each individual religion believes it is the ultimate truth and are justifying all of their actions because of it. They believe their books hold the ultimate truth by virtue of the books saying so themselves. Anything, whether good or horrific, written in those books can cause a lot of damage in people's lives. I know we're not talking specifically of religion here; we're talking about the belief in a god. People can believe in god/s without subscribing to any particular religion or teachings, but when these beliefs are causing racism, murder, and hatred, it's hardly a trivial matter. When the Bible or the Koran is telling voters who are in turn telling legislators to ban abortion and discontinue stem cell research, it's hardly a trivial matter. When gay marriage is considered illegal, essentially impeding on the lives and the pursuit of happiness for certain individuals, it's not really a trivial matter.

    The bottom line is there is no question about whether there is evidence in support of a god or a deity or multiple gods and deities. None whatsoever. Most of the "evidence" proposed is either misleading, disingenuous, or a blatant lie. I've heard it all from scientists like Frank Tipler to random people on the street who say, "Every morning I see the beauty of the sky and of creation and this for me is evidence of a God." Hardly compelling.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2007
  7. Aug 13, 2007 #6
    Oh really. Religions cause racism, murder, and war, as compared to what? Desire for money, power, and control? There's a terribly flimsy link between religious belief and the intent to commit reprehensible acts and atrocities, yet somehow it still works it's way into a thread like this, one which places high demands on proof. Please, provide some evidence rather than vague speculation.

    And I really didn't say anything about whether or not any evidence could be presented. I just asked what kind of ground rules are being put in place in a discussion like this. There's still plenty of subjectivity in a statement like extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I think it places an artificially high standard on what beliefs are reasonable for people to hold.

    Also, I would say we shouldn't confuse a lack of compelling evidence with no evidence. They're not the same thing. If you wanted to argue that the evidence presented by most theists doesn't really make their explanation of events likely, I'd agree with that.

    These are really less severe than what you seemed to imply earlier.

    Abortion (and stem-cell research) can be objected to on moral grounds independent of religion and go far beyond the scope of the thread. Gay marriage being banned in most American states probably is a result religious morality, but eh, I really don't see how one who believes in God necessarily finds homosexuality immoral. It's fine if you want to argue that it makes the God question relevant.

    Still, it doesn't seem like this is enough to affect the basic question of what kinds of demands you're going to place on belief in God. All this might really prove is that we have reason for limiting the political power of religious bodies.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2007
  8. Aug 13, 2007 #7
    Yes, really. Religions have caused racism, murders, and war for centuries. People, especially religious people, are always so quick to blame human nature. I'll agree to some extent that the desire for money, power, and control plays a significant role in human atrocities, but what was the best tool for men to gain such things? Religion. For hundreds of years, the Catholic church used their power and authority over people to decide who has power and how wealth is distributed. The inquisitions led to the deaths of many innocent people. Adolf Hitler himself, who many claim was an atheist, can be quoted several times in saying he was "doing the work of God."

    The link between religion and atrocity is hardly a flimsy one. Take the current state of Islamic fundamentalism. If it weren't for the mandated death of infidels, we wouldn't have had the disaster of 9/11. If it weren't for the rights of women taken away by books like the Bible and the Koran, we wouldn't have pregnant mothers having their bellies sliced open and their unborn children skewered on the ends of swords (yes, this sort of thing is still going on in the Middle East.)

    What about the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie for writing a fictional book which was somehow "offensive" to Muslims? Publishers and translators were shot and hunted along with Rushdie himself.

    Again, going back to the desire for power, money, and control can be argued as Nietzsche argued against religion: Religion is the engine for the power hungry and the greedy to take control of the people.

    To say the link between religion and horror is flimsy is frankly a statement from ignorance. History tells us that millions of deaths and murders were in the name of some god or religion. Thousands to this day are oppressed in the name of some god or religion.

    I was born and raised a Christian and have done my fair share of study on religious history. However, like any wise person I questioned my beliefs in order to justify and confirm them. Naturally, it led me to atheism. The problem is people never get to the stage of questioning their beliefs because most religions teach them not to. I am highly against that. I am against telling people they are being blasphemous for questioning their beliefs... often these beliefs constitute the foundations of their lives. I am against telling them it is a sin of any kind.

    Again, you are asking us to, "Please, provide some evidence rather than vague speculation." Evidence for what? The burden of proof lies with the ones who claim there is a god. If you're asking for evidence of the link between religion and human atrocities, I can make full citations here by tomorrow.

    Here's what this thread boils down to: Who has the burden of proof? One person says, "Prove that God exists." Another says, "Prove to me God doesn't exist." There are no ground rules on what is clearly an argumentative fallacy in the latter statement, "Prove to me God doesn't exist." The standard isn't artificially high because this is a matter that is black or white and has no gray area. Either it can be proved, or it can't.

    We can't "prove" the Big Bang actually happened. No one was there to witness it. Even some of the more compelling and considerable evidence for it now is still being questioned. However, the evidence proposed for the Big Bang is more credible than evidence proposed for a god because it isn't guilty of begging the question. Physical observations led to the theory of the Big Bang, whereas the supposed a priori knowledge of a god has led people to search for evidence or twist it to suit their theory.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2007
  9. Aug 14, 2007 #8
    I don't find either question to be very meaningful. Considering the nature of a god I can not imagine how one would go about proving or disproving their existence. As far as the social merit of religion, it is not alone in its detrimental effects on humanity. If people didn't have religion they'd use philosophy and if people wish to be irrational no one can stop them.
  10. Aug 14, 2007 #9
    One cannot consider the nature of a god without a source or preconceived notion of what a god is. Therefore, the questions are valid. Can an omnipotent being exist? Yes. Does one exist? So far the evidence points to none at all.

    I don't people can use philosophy to be as irrational as religion. I can't see philosophy forbidding anyone to eat pork or meat on a certain day. I don't think philosophy alone is capable of killing or punishing women for not covering their faces. I don't think philosophy can tell someone that there is a paradise waiting for them, and if they kill people that deserve to die, they can take family and friends they choose to paradise with them, too. Philosophy doesn't create specific and arbitrary rules which turn out to be dogma.
  11. Aug 14, 2007 #10
    There is an infinite amount of things that science cannot disprove, such as pink invisible unicorns, flying spaghetti monsters, goblins, trolls and so on, but that in turn does not mean that it is a valid reason to believe in it. The philosopher Bertrand Russell countered the 'Well, you cannot disprove it' argument about 100 years ago.

  12. Aug 14, 2007 #11
    Carl Sagan also has his own version of this teapot analogy with the "invisible floating dragon in the garage" story from his book, "Demon Haunted World."
  13. Aug 14, 2007 #12
    That all depends upon the context of which the question is being asked. For scientific claims, this is certainly true. However, the existence or nonexistence of a god is a matter of faith, not science. therefore, the axiom that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof is valid only for scientific claims. This is especially true because it is impossible for science to prove that something does not exist - only that it does exist. Or, more precisely in some instance, science can only prove that, given our current understanding of [the subject], it most likely exists. The nature of faith requires that an individual accept something extraordinary without proof 9otehrwise it's no longer faith).

    Again, only if it is a scientific claim.

    A few thoughts on this. First, there must be a distinction between the possible existence of a god and the associated religion. Unless there is proof of the existence of the deity in question, then the claims of the religion itself are subject to skepticism. A religion may state that their truth is absolute, but this doesn't necessarily make it so. Therefore, I would think that a correct response to "Prove God does not exist" should be "That's impossible since it's a matter of faith, not science."

    Second, as for the discussion about an omnipotent god, one could certainly exist. From a scientific standpoint, it is unlikely since their is no proof (and some would claim no preponderance of the evidence as well). However, froma faith based standpoint, one could certainly exist and nullify any attempt to prove its existence, being that it's omnipotent. In this case, not even logic could prove the non-existence of a go, since omnipotence implies it is not subject to the laws and axioms of logic.

    Third, a rather interesting scientific position to take would be "If there is a god, then it is likely omnipotent and not subject to physical laws and constraints (including logic) since there is no corroberating evidence to support its existence. this does not mean there is a god, only that if there is one, it is probably omnipotent."

    Remember, all science (and even logic) is predicated upon certain axioms (I'm not intimately familiar with Godel's proof, but I believe this is the paraphrased crux of his argument - that all systems require axioms that must be accepted as true, but these of themselves are not provable).
  14. Aug 14, 2007 #13
    No, it is not a scientific position because it is not testable, repeatable or falsifiable. If you are going to argue that 'God' is above all laws, science and reason, you have the burden of evidence to show why that claim is relevant.

    "Can 'God' create a stone heavier than he can lift it?" argument demolishes the concept of omnipotence.


    Science is not a formal system, it has no formal and rigid axioms and no formal rigid means of inference. Science does not have any problems with contradicting earlier models. Therefore, the incompleteness theorem does not apply to science.
  15. Aug 14, 2007 #14
    Kudos for bringing up Hitler and weakly trying to tie his anti-semitism to religion due to a couple of quotes no one cares to remember. This is in spite of the fact that his writings and speeches lead us to believe Hitler was deeply anti-capitalist, and that the Jews represented everything he despised about capitalism (they were the bankers and accountants after all). Hitler even hated the communists because he thought they were really Jewish capitalists in disguise. Wolves in sheeps clothing if you will. Tying Hitler's anti-semitism to religion...It's too wrong to even make any sense, and flies in the face of the history and rhetoric surrounding Hitler and his Socialist worker's party.

    Anyway, we're getting too far away from what I was originally asking. Suppose I agreed that whether or not someone personally believed in the existence of God was "of the highest relevance to man", and a wrong verdict would be a "serious harm" to everyone. What then constitutes this extraordinary evidence that would be required to prove the existence of God? What would it have to look like to be satisfying?
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2007
  16. Aug 14, 2007 #15

    I'm sorry, but your retorts are almost laughable and you think that all of these ties are so weak.

    "I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator."

    - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 2

    "In short, the results of miscegenation are always the following: (a) The level of the superior race becomes lowered; (b) physical and mental degeneration sets in, thus leading slowly but steadily towards a progressive drying up of the vital sap. The act which brings about such a development is a sin against the will of the Eternal Creator. And as a sin this act will be avenged."

    - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 11

    "Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise."

    - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Vol. 2 Chapter 1

    "Thus inwardly armed with confidence in God and the unshakable stupidity of the voting citizenry, the politicians can begin the fight for the 'remaking' of the Reich as they call it."

    - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Vol. 2 Chapter 1

    "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith ...we need believing people."

    - Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933, speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordant

    "What the old parliament and parties did not accomplish in sixty years, your statesmanlike foresight has achieved in six months. For Germany's prestige in East and West and before the whole world this handshake with the Papacy, the greatest moral power in the history of the world, is a feat of immeasurable blessing. ...May God preserve the Reich Chancellor for our people."

    - Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Bavaria, praising Adolf Hitler for the Concordat, July 24, 1933


    "The word "German" is God's Word! Whosoever understands this is released from all theological conflicts. This is German: return home to Germany and leave behind egoism and your feelings of abandonment. ...Christ has come to us through the person of Adolf Hitler. ...Hitler has taken root in us; through his strength, through his honesty, his faith and his idealism we have found our way to paradise."

    - Kirchenrat Leutheusser, addressing German Christians in Saalfeld, August 30, 1933

    The list goes on and on, AsianSensationK. Maybe do a little research before showing careless denial.
  17. Aug 14, 2007 #16
    Fine, fine. I'll admit it when I'm wrong. I never denied he was religious, but there may have been a strong religious influence pushing him into his anti-semitism. Those quotes don't actually prove that though, but reviewing volume one, chapter 2 there are a couple of passages in there were he sites a christian socialist movement which changed him, and his earlier slightly more tolerant views on the Jews.

    Still, my real question goes unanswered. If extraordinary proof were presented in favor of the original proposition that God does exist, what must it look like if it is to be satisfying? What would constitute a proper "proof" of this proposition?
  18. Aug 14, 2007 #17
    That would be a question for the original poster. As far as I'm concerned, satisfying evidence or even extraordinary evidence would consist of observations or tangible items which can only be attributed to a powerful deity or an omnipotent God. I would have to say that the evidence would have to be exclusive to a god only so that it can't be correlated or confused with anything else. For example, creation cannot be sole evidence of a god because it could be the product of a big bang and cosmic and biological evolution. Therefore, any and all evidence presented would have to be closely limited to the notion of a god or an omnipotent being. Anything outside of that would be, in my opinion, erratic speculation.
  19. Aug 15, 2007 #18
    What can I say, Stallan and Mao Tse Tung killed tens of millions, suppressed sciences, and did any number of irrational things in the name of progress and moral superiority. Both were atheists. In the name of science and morality Skinner put his own infant daughter in a soundproof glass box under the stairs and would only play with her occasionally using the attached rubber gloves in the box. It even had brown paper on a roller so he didn't have to worry about changing dypers. She spent years in therapy as result. The wonderful state of Virginia I live in sterilized some twenty thousand young people in the name of science and progress.

    I could go on and on with one crazy story after another of supposedly rational atheists committing patently bizarre, destructive, and insane acts. What both Atheists and the religious who commit such acts have in common, imho, is their emotional attachments to the philosophies that form the foundations of their beliefs.
  20. Aug 15, 2007 #19
    After several years of religious debate, I've heard this argument a million times before. "Supposedly good atheists and the reason in science is responsible for the lives of many..." Still, while both parties are guilty, the numbers of people killed, tortured, maimed, ruined, and emotionally devastated by religion are tens of times as much as these examples usually cited by theists. I'd have to say that these are all isolated cases in comparison with religion, where people will turn the other cheek no matter how weird their behavior is because it's all in the name of some god.

    Still, I'm glad to know that Stalin and Mao were acting out of their intensity for Marxism and communism.
  21. Aug 16, 2007 #20
    Of course the number of heinous acts committed by the religious outnumber those of believers, the overwhelming majority of humanity are believers!

    Personally, I'm an agnostic amoral anarchist and don't get involved in either side of such arguments.
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