Documenting the Coming Singularity

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Question of Belief

I've had a few conversations lately about believing in God. (If you are a regular reader of this blog I think you will have picked up some hints that I don't, although I was a minister for about 20 years.) These conversations sort of ended with the other person saying, essentially, "Well, I can't prove that God exists, and you can't prove that he doesn't exist." This statement puts belief in God and unbelief in God on an equal footing, both schools of thought being equally rational. In this post I will briefly comment on that sentiment.

It is true that I cannot prove the non-existence of a supernatural being who is omnipotent, omniscient, intimately involved in the world, and all the rest. I can, however, demonstrate that the existence of such an entity is a) highly improbable, and b) completely lacking in any evidence whatsoever. (One of the bits of "evidence" I used to rely on, called evidence from design, says that the complexity of the natural world is so improbable that it must have had a designer; the problem with this theory is that a designer, who must be more complex that what he designed, would have to be even more improbable.) I can't prove that there is no Ford Taurus out in space somewhere, but there is no evidence that there is and the likelihood of it is extremely small. In the same way, the existence of God is highly improbable, and there is no evidence to support his existence. On the other hand, there is evidence to support the things that I believe, e.g. evolution, the Big Bang, etc. I choose not to believe in things that are highly improbable and have no evidence to support them.

Comments? Anyone? Anyone?

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Nate said...

Very nice points btw, although I see a problem with the idea that nature is more complex than God. If there is a God, a designer, then surely God's existence is more complex then everything else that has existed.

Spaceman Spiff said...

Two thoughts:

First: I've heard a lot of people say that they can show the existence of God to be highly improbable, yet I have no idea how one would go about calculating odds in this situation.

Certainly we can't take a statistical sample of universes and see what percentage of the time Gods created them or not.

And how would we do it deductively? If universes do require intelligent designers, then they just do, and the probability is 1. If not, then its 0. But how can we talk about whether singularities form on their own? How can we study before time?

My conclusion is, people who claim that the existence of God is improbably are merely saying something about themselves and the way they see the world. They look at it and don't feel that someone would have done that on purpose.

Second: The authors in the Bible never try to derive God's existence from science or anything. They just claim to know him. And then Jesus says He is Truth. Thus I think modern Christians are kind of missing the point when they argue the way you described.

If Christianity is "true" then Truth is a Person. If I were to argue with somebody about the existence of a guy who grew up in Jamaica, went to UF, joined a harmful Christian group, then got married and had a kid who turned out to be me, I really wouldn't discuss the statistical odds of that happening. I'd say, hey listen, I know the guy. He's my dad. You can meet him. That's the strategy I hope to take.

Barry Mahfood said...

I think you will make an excellent professor of theology. Why don't you write some articles for my blog as a guest writer?

Secret Simon said...

Hi Barry - Thanks for visiting my blog the other day. I thought I'd take a look at yours. I too am impressed with spaceman spiff's contribution. As you know, I do a spirituality blog and I found it very interesting that when I recently wrote (in my post 'Special Green Plates')about a spiritual experience I'd had, a lot of my regular readers left a comment to say that they'd experienced something similar themselves. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised by this. These are people who read a spirituality blog because they're drawn to spiritual matters, and it seems that this might be because of direct experiences they've had and have interpreted in spiritual terms. They have experienced something. They have *known* something - and this has left them wanting to find out more. They are open to spiritual ideas not because they have sat down and calculated the probability that God exists but because they have found something inside them which suggests that he might - though without necessarily knowing what his nature might be.

Barry Mahfood said...

Thanks for visiting and for your very interesting comment, simon. I think it's very encouraging that people with different points of view can discuss weighty issues such as these in a spirit of respect and congeniality.