“Proof” that God exists

Introduction

If you want some entertainment in the form of logical gymnastics, go to this page on the proof of god. If you’re impatient, here is one of the arguments:

Do you believe that Absolute Truth exists? Possible answers…

  1. yes -> you go on to the next piece
  2. no -> is it absolutely true that absolute truth doesn’t exist?
    1. yes -> then you actually believe that absolute truth exists!
    2. no -> you get asked again if you believe that Absolute Truth exists (with the statement “This is not a glitch (Think about it)”. – essentially implying either that you’re making an absolute truth statement, or you can’t state anything.

     

  3. You don’t know -> Is this absolutely true?
    1. yes
    2. no -> you get asked again if you believe that Absolute Truth exists (with the statement “This is not a glitch (Think about it)”. – essentially implying either that you’re making an absolute truth statement, or you can’t state anything.

     

  4. You don’t care -> send you out of the site.

A similar point is made about the laws of logic:

> “If you believe that laws of logic do not exist, how do you make decisions about the most basic things in life? How do you decide which side of the road to drive on? How do you choose whether to drink water or poison for nourishment? > > One interesting aspect of denying laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction, is that since you DO NOT believe in laws of logic, you actually DO believe in laws of logic. If contradictions are allowed in your worldview then so is that one.”

Why this is stupid

I think the first basic flaw in this line of argument is that it assumes that all statements are yes/no statements. There is no accounting for probability, uncertainty, etc… Does “Absolute Truth” exist? I don’t know? Is it absolutely true that I don’t know? I don’t know!

The second basic flaw is that it may not be a well-defined question. What does “absolute” really mean? What about “truth”? We have working definitions, which might be a bit sloppy, but perhaps if we understood them better we’d find that they are not well defined concepts. An analogy in physics might be the word “particle”. We have a working definition, and in most cases it is very usable, but we know that fundamentally we just have energy and interactions – the particle is a convenient construct.

Finally, I don’t think I have any patience for arguments which don’t even make an attempt to be grounded in some empiricism.

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About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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4 Responses to “Proof” that God exists

  1. Steven Winsor says:

    What is the ‘Absolute Truth’? What are the ‘laws of logic’ you refer to? Are these laws immutable?

    Brian, came across something in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education that caught my eye (related to atheism). Two control groups of people (one group religious and the other atheist) were presented with a number of statements that required them to actually speak them, such as “I hope God kills my parents today”. Now, of course, the group of religion-based folks struggled terribly to speak such a comment. But the interesting reaction was among the atheists: they also had difficulty with speaking such statements.

    The members of both control groups were hooked up to electrical sensors that detected such things as perspiration (whihc occurs when presented with a statement that causes consternation or concern). The atheists exhibited similar reactions to the statements as the other group experienced.

    One could seemingly speculate that the avowed atheists may have this thing sitting back in their subconscious…a thought that, no matter how the ‘laws of logic’ may suggest there is no God, “hey, man there might be”…and to say “yeah, God, go ahead and kill my parents”..uh, that takes a real leap of faith (no pun intended) on the part of the atheist. This may be where the ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’ comes from.

    • brianblais says:

      “Are these laws immutable?” – don’t know. 🙂

      “One could seemingly speculate that the avowed atheists may have this thing sitting back in their subconscious” – I’d have to see if they controlled for atheists brought up religious. I can say for myself that, given child indoctrination, when I say “God” I still imagine the white beard, etc…

  2. Steven Winsor says:

    I threw the ‘immutable’ thing in in jest…forgot to include the emoticon. 🙂

  3. Cait says:

    I think people who love their parents, regardless of whether they were religious or atheist, would feel uncomfortable stating that they wish their parents were murdered.

    What was the purpose of the study? Were there other questions that the test subjects were asked? I’d be interested in seeing it.

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