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cl

@ Kagehi,


It seems we agree and that your own words in part support my claim. What you write here reads almost verbatim to a comment I made earlier:

"Let me put it this, its one thing to propose one "look for" something like a pink and purple duck, its another to suggest that the only way to "find" such things is to wear a fedora hat and ride backwards, on a tricycle, on the grounds that this is the only way to "detect" one. You can't prove the "solution" without finding the "object" of that solution first. This is not a problem if you are looking for something like Top or Strange quarks, etc., where you ***have*** mathematical models that suggested they should actually exist *before* applying the solution to find them. We don't even have that much when dealing with gods."

That was exactly my point. Since for the proposition of gods we don't even have that much, in my opinion no science can begin, and claiming the scientific method as the best means of verifying the God hypothesis has no basis in the absence of some form of evidence to prompt investigation in the first place. Before science can begin we need some kind of hard evidence, even if it's only a mathematical model as you suggest.

Spot-on here, whether we're in full agreement elsewhere or not.

Kagehi

Hmm. Then I suppose the only matter of contention is, "Why, if there is no means to evaluate the premise, should one *also* presume that the premise *should be* evaluated in the first place, in comparison to millions of other entirely baseless assertions from the past?" Is the mere fact that a lot of people came up with silly explanations that "invariably" involved something like themselves, but more powerful, *really* a sufficient reason to presume that there is anything to examine at all? If so, why, as compared to Eastern Kami, Australian "dream time", South American claims of flying serpent gods and/or leopard gods, rain forest tribes assertion that spirits control the world, or for that matter, the almost universal insistence of everyone younger than a certain age that monsters hide under their bed, or in their closets?

What ***precisely***, other than useless numbers of people that persist in its belief, makes the god hypothesis, never mind any "specific" one, worth examining, with or without a "scientific" approach?

And, having answered that, I also have to wonder, is not collection of an abundance of evidence that implies the lack of evidence, improbability of, and general absurdity of the concept, basically science anyway? Why not? Because it would appear to be trying to prove a negative, while in actuality simply stating, "This is a likely negative, due to the hundreds of **positive** possibilities we can, have and continue to find which better explain these things"?

I think you are still missing a key point here. Science isn't trying to disprove or "test" for god, its testing for thousands of other things that it "does" have evidence for, then stating, simply and directly, "There isn't really any room for this 'other' hypothesis, which isn't *better* explained by existing things." Its unclear how science can't test it, at least indirectly, short of *starting* with the rather silly presumptions that a) there is something to test in the first place, and b) somehow there, therefor, needs to be some "other" means to test it, both in defiance of not only the positive evidence for better, (if sometimes emotionally unsatisfying explanations), and the infinite number of other equally baseless hypothesis that one could come up with, for which there is also no way to test them, and no grounds to presume there is anything **to** test.

cl

@ Kagehi,


Good questions.

You write, "Why, if there is no means to evaluate the premise, should one *also* presume that the premise *should be* evaluated in the first place, in comparison to millions of other entirely baseless assertions from the past?"

I don't think the existence of God is falsifiable so I would never recommend evaluating the existence of God scientifically. I'm not presuming anyone should evaluate the God hypothesis unless of course they are so inspired.

You ask, "What ***precisely***, other than useless numbers of people that persist in its belief, makes the god hypothesis...worth examining?"

This seems corollary to your first question and again, I don't think the existence of God is falsifiable, so I don't think it's worth examining scientifically. As for what might make any God hypothesis worth examining, that's a matter of opinion entirely. Some people think the possibility of eternal separation from God is good grounds for investigating the idea; others disagree. Again, these are matters of opinion, not science.

You ask, "I also have to wonder, is not collection of an abundance of evidence that implies the lack of evidence, improbability of, and general absurdity of the concept, basically science anyway?" Collection of evidence is indeed science, but what that evidence implies is a matter of conjecture entirely, unless of course said implication is falsifiable.

You and Spacesocks say I'm still missing a key point... So what key point am I missing here?

Spacesocks

OK, cl, I'll try to spell out the points I think you're missing.

First of all, the word "God" does not correspond to a single concept, but to a mind-boggling array of different concepts. Some of them are not falsifiable (for instance, many pantheistic concepts of God); others ARE falsifiable, at least in principle. The "God hypothesis" is a pretty fair representation of the God that is worshipped by Western monotheists (and by that I mean the rank and file believers; many theologians think the "God" of the "God hypothesis" is a caricature, and get irritated at atheists for attacking it; in my view, if they feel this way, they should tell it to the rank-and-file believers). Here's the thing: the "God hypothesis" makes concrete, verifiable predictions about how the deity it postulates operates in the world. The world is not consistent with these predictions. Therefore, we stick with the "null hypothesis": atheism. The God of the God hypothesis does not exist. It is a falsifiable God, and also happens to be false. (I don't mean, of course, that it has been shown to be absolutely false; but since belief in it cannot be justified, but only rationalized, we can be certain for all practical purposes that it is false. Some people who believe in this God may think it is unfalsifiable, and claim this as a point in its favor, but it is only "unfalsifiable" to them because they would never give it up even if it ever were falsified).

Now, just because we have refuted the God hypothesis, does not mean that all possible versions of God are ruled out. (you can't prove a null hypothesis; you can only rule out positive hypotheses).

It does not rule out unfalsifiable Gods. But such Gods, in order to be truly unfalsifiable, must have NO OBSERVABLE EFFECT on the workings of the universe that cannot be accounted for by natural phenomena. They are the "dragon in the garage" (I think someone brought this up earlier—it's from Carl Sagan's book "The Demon-Haunted World"). It's true that you can't "prove" that they don't exist...but that is most certainly not a point in their favor, because it actually means that even if they DO exist, they might as well not exist.

One version of God that I do think is defensible is that of an imaginary God; this is a God that can only be known through subjective means of "verification." I get irritated when atheists make fun of religious people for having an "imaginary friend"; in my opinion, the problem is not that they have an imaginary friend, but that they won't let themselves admit that he IS imaginary.

So, to summarize: the word "God" stands for both falsifiable and unfalsifiable deities. Greta has argued (very convincingly) that a certain falsifiable version of God is, in fact, false.

You seem to be stuck on the idea that God is inherently unfalsifiable. But, as I said, there are both falsifiable and unfalsifiable versions of God. The former have a strong tendency to be shown to be false; the latter might as well be false. (if you think I'm wrong to say they might as well be false, please tell me why).

This leads into other points you missed. For example, operating under the assumption that all possible Gods are unfalsifiable, you kept hammering away at Greta's quote on "faith" from November.

When she "recanted," you missed the point that she only used the word "recant" to get you to stop throwing an out-of-context quote at her. You were using this quote aggressively, to needle Greta into admitting that she actually thinks that all possible Gods are unfalsifiable and therefore not subject to empirical verification, which would invalidate her entire argument in this post. Given the substance of her post, she couldn't possibly think this now, even if she used to, so it was absurd of you to keep trying to go "gotcha" on her.

Also, you miss the point about debate etiquette. You do really annoying things like thanking people for commenting (which is patronizing enough when people do it on their own blogs), claiming to be "non-partisan" (as if this makes you more reasonable than people who are willing to state opinions and defend them), and acting persecuted. Also, you refuse to tell us what you really think about the issue at hand:

Do you think we should seriously entertain the possibility of God's existence despite its failure as a scientifically-framed hypothesis? If so, why, and what means should we employ to evaluate the question?

cl

@ Spacesocks,

First, that different people define God differently is not a point I missed, Spacesocks. So when you write, "...there are both falsifiable and unfalsifiable versions of God," and also that some of these versions are "...falsifiable (at least in principle)," I know this, and you erect a strawman. And besides, do you mean to imply that a position between falsifiability and unfalsifiability exists? Because to me falsifiability is Boolean.

Second, the God I'm questioning is a being. If the God you're questioning is not a being, but a "a mind-boggling array of different concepts," then we're questioning two different things and have no need for further discourse. The being I question is not falsifiable, and contrary to your charge, I view this lack of falsifiability as an annoying frustration, not a point in its favor. If the being I question would just incontrovertibly manifest to humanity, it'd be alot easier for people to make up their minds. Wouldn't you agree?

Third, you say the world is not consistent with the rank-and-file predictions of the God hypothesis. That's your opinion and your entitlement to it is part of the reason we pay taxes. But before I can give you my opinion as to whether the world is consistent with the predictions of any God, I must know what those predictions are. I don't know which predictions you envision in particular, so I can't respond to you in an appropriate context here. If you'd like to respond with a list of concrete, verifiable predictions, perhaps I can clarify. Even assuming the standard Judeo-Christian God, when I look around I see a satisfying amount of said God's standard predictions met. That's not a fact of course, just my observation, and it certainly doesn't mean I worship it. You say, "The world is not consistent with these predictions." Well, okay...that's your interpretation of the facts, not a fact itself. Your opinion, however beloved to you, doesn't mean you've successfully refuted the God I question; it might mean you've successfully refuted "the God hypothesis" you question.

Fourth, you say, "...Gods, in order to be truly unfalsifiable, must have NO OBSERVABLE EFFECT on the workings of the universe that cannot be accounted for by natural phenomena." I take issue with this. "Natural" is just a construct we use to describe physical phenomena. In this sentence you strip the idea of God from natural phenomena a priori. The word "natural" is not synonymous with "godless." Any reasonable theist who argues that natural phenomena are in fact observable effects of God has no need to apologize to charges of unfalsifiability.

Fifth, when noting falsifiable and unfalsifiable versions of God you say, "The former have a strong tendency to be shown to be false; the latter might as well be false." I think you're unjustified logically to prematurely conclude that the latter might as well be false, because unfalsifiability of a proposition in no way demands said proposition's falsity. You repeat this earlier when, presumably talking about demons, you write: "It's true that you can't "prove" that they don't exist...but that is most certainly not a point in their favor, because it actually means that even if they DO exist, they might as well not exist." How so? Now I might be mistaken here, but you appear to be saying that demons are not falsifiable. If so, how does their unfalsifiability imply they might as well not exist? Why might unfalsifiable versions of God as well be false? Are you saying that in order for something to have any affect on your life, it must be falsifiable? Are you saying that the provability of a proposition is the measure of that proposition's ability to affect your life?

Sixth, I have beliefs, but I am non-partisan, and that choice doesn't make me any better or any less prone to partisan errors than anyone else. I have strong opinions, and am more than willing to defend them, and the insinuations to the contrary in the presence of admonishment over etiquette continues to amuse and entertain. Speaking of etiquette, I take very seriously what you, Greta or anyone else has to say, and I'll question my own actions.

And lastly, you write, "Also, you refuse to tell us what you really think about the issue at hand..." I disagree. For me, the original issue at hand was whether there was any contradiction between two of Greta's statements, a question whose answer the spiritual alignment of the involved parties has absolutely no bearing upon.

Finally, you ask, "Do you think we should seriously entertain the possibility of God's existence despite its failure as a scientifically-framed hypothesis? If so, why, and what means should we employ to evaluate the question?" Well, that answer depends on questions only you can answer for yourself. I think if the possibility of eternal separation from God is something one might wish to avoid, then one might be justified in seriously entertaining the possibility of God's existence whether they think God has failed as a scientifically-framed hypothesis or not. Contrary, if the possibility of eternal separation from God is not a big deal to one, then I'd say one has no reason to pursue the matter at all.

And should one declare the pursuit worthy, the means one should employ to evaluate the question will likely be as unique and diverse as one's path to reverence of the question in the first place.

Kagehi

"Contrary, if the possibility of eternal separation from God is not a big deal to one, then I'd say one has no reason to pursue the matter at all."

Seriously, you don't *at all* notice that this is precisely the same sort of strange logic a gambler might apply, despite are reasonable grounds to discount it, to the hypothesis, "If I just buy one more Lotto ticket it 'will' be the winner!" All you are stating is that for something deluded by the proposition that there *is* something to be separated from, the entirely self defined concept of what that means, and if it means anything at all, is "meaningful to them". Well, so is **every** sort of delusion, hallucination, schizophrenic certainty about the world, and/or obsessive compulsive disorder. You have, in a single stroke, rendered your unfalsifiable god as *identical* to mental illness.

Spacesocks

CL,
I did NOT erect a strawman of your position. I tried to give an honest assessment of the points I thought you were missing. If you weren't actually missing those points, then fine. I didn't actually say I knew for sure that you were missing them. Notice I said, "the points I THINK you're missing."

"If the God you're questioning is not a being, but a "a mind-boggling array of different concepts," then we're questioning two different things..."

The God I'm questioning is ONE OF THESE CONCEPTS. I dismiss a few others in my comment, but only one is my main target.

The God hypothesis I'm referring to is the one Greta discusses in this article. Atheists target it because it is a common conception of God and because it is also patently false.

The "predictions" of this hypothesis include "prayers visibly answered" and "followers of one religion doing visibly better than followers of every other religion" (Greta). (Obviously, not every God hypothesis makes these predictions, even the ones that are in-principle falsifiable.) There are people who actually claim that their prayers have been answered; for example, God curing them of cancer. We can investigate these claims by seeing whether people who are prayed for do any better than would be predicted by chance (and then we would rigorously scrutinize the methodology of any such study).

"The being I question is not falsifiable, and contrary to your charge, I view this lack of falsifiability as an annoying frustration, not a point in its favor. If the being I question would just incontrovertibly manifest to humanity, it'd be alot easier for people to make up their minds. Wouldn't you agree?"

Yeah, I agree. But there actually are claims of this being manifesting itself to humanity; they just don't hold any more merit than claims of telepathy, etc. Obviously when you call the claimants of such phenomena on that issue, they'll say, "you just can't see it because of your narrow scientific worldview" or "it isn't working this time because your skepticism is sending off bad vibes." Such dodges, in my view, are rationalizations; they do not justify belief in such phenomena. They might render the hypothesis "unfalsifiable," but it isn't really unfalsifiable in principle; the unfalsifiability has been brought in as a dodge in this case.

One thing: When I say unfalsifiability is not a point in favor of such a being, I'm not talking about the character of the deity itself, I'm talking about grounds for reasonable belief in a deity. Just to clarify. You will probably accuse me of strawmanning you again, but you do say "I view this lack of falsifiability as an annoying frustration," as if you actually expect this God to manifest itself, and are frustrated that it hasn't. Once again, not trying to strawman you, just trying to clarify. Do you think unfalsifiablity is a point in favor of BELIEF in a God, or a point against it, or neither? Because I would say it's a point against it.

I wasn't actually talking about demons, I was talking about invisible, incorporeal, heatless-fire-breathing dragons living in Carl Sagan's garage. He used this as an example of an unfalsifiable proposition. The point was that there's no practical difference between an invisible, incorporeal, heatless-fire-breathing dragon, and no dragon at all. That chapter was what got me over the whole "God is unfalsifiable" issue.

"I take issue with this. "Natural" is just a construct we use to describe physical phenomena. In this sentence you strip the idea of God from natural phenomena a priori."

I didn't mean to. I think if "supernatural" phenomena were found to be real, we would just redefine them as natural. Which I guess is the whole point of trying to attack the God hypothesis.

Most adherents of the God of the God hypothesis do indeed say that God operates through natural laws or set them up. If it stops there, they're deists, and don't actually worship the God of the God hypothesis. Deism is unfalsifiable, but I don't care that much about debunking it.

A God that causes miracles, however, is one that manipulates the laws of nature on a macro scale. We would only be able to detect these miracles insofar as they became apparent to us through natural laws, but they would be really bizarre manifestations of the natural laws we thought we understood. Of course, then we'd have to investigate the "miraculous" phenomenon and what was causing it. If we found out it was an omnipotent being, well, then, there's your God.

"I think if the possibility of eternal separation from God is something one might wish to avoid, then one might be justified in seriously entertaining the possibility of God's existence whether they think God has failed as a scientifically-framed hypothesis or not. Contrary, if the possibility of eternal separation from God is not a big deal to one, then I'd say one has no reason to pursue the matter at all."

That's fair enough. I personally am less judgmental about people who believe in God than certain other atheists. Have you read any William James (The Will to Believe, etc.)? I think people who want to entertain the possibility of God's existence have every right to do so. If it works for them, then great, as long as they know the difference between objective evidence and whatever subjective benefits they get from entertaining said possibility. And as long as they entertain the possibility non-dogmatically—that is, if they are also capable of entertaining the possibility that God does NOT exist, and are capable of updating their worldview if another turns out to fit their life better. The religions I am against are the ones that engage in brainwashing and those which muddle thinking in the interest of maintaining the "faith" of their followers. I don't actually think that all religions do this, but it's very common.

cl

@ Kagehi,


Yes, I do "notice that this is precisely the same sort of strange logic a gambler might apply." That's a perfect analogy.

"You have, in a single stroke, rendered your unfalsifiable god as *identical* to mental illness." Okay, you're entitled to that.

cl

@ Spacesocks,


I recant my strawman comment. Not of appeasement either. It seriously seemed like you were trying to tell me what I was missing, which is essentially telling your opponent what they're arguing. My apology.

In the context of the God hypothesis, you write, "We can investigate these claims by seeing whether people who are prayed for do any better than would be predicted by chance (and then we would rigorously scrutinize the methodology of any such study)." I agree. You can. But the pursuit itself is worthless and not science. Rigorously scrutinizing any study does nothing if the study is not authentically scientific. Although I see the logic, it overlooks several things, first of which is that you seem to be endorsing the scientific validity of the "science proves prayer" argument. I feel anyone who proposes that a truly scientific study of prayer exists is not proposing science.

The claims of individual believers who say they've experienced miracle X themselves are not falsifiable because they represent singular, disparate occurrences not inaccurately described as absolutely freakish material intrusions into space-time. Now I can't speak for the God hypothesis you've refuted, but, to revert to the classic example of the Judeo-Christian God of scripture, the miracles purported were **supernatural occurrences, which by default lack the privileges of reproducibility and confirmation via independent reasoning. Now one might cite Jesus' admonition to followers that they would "do even greater things than He" as support for the idea that miraculous occurrences can be reproduced; any degree of truth notwithstanding, to argue such is to depart from the scientific criteria surrounding reproducibility, among other things. Also note the utter impossibility of securing an authentic control group of believers. All mature believers I debate with laugh at such studies. How does one confirm religious belief? Isn't the unilateral claim of atheism that faith is inherently subjective in the first place? One might be correct in saying that the believers chosen for the control group gave a profession of faith. But I thought science can't accept just-so stories, of which professions of faith most certainly qualify? Seriously, can anyone out there tell me the scientific criteria for belief, when the Bible itself seems to say that of sheep who say "Lord, Lord" not all are of the same pen? Then by what special pleading might anyone accept the results of a study that does not rest firmly on a foundation of indisputable, empirical data, i.e., a subjective, pseudoscientific study?

**(I'm aware many progressives and Aquarians might take issue with my a priori ascription of 'supernatural' to miracles. I myself often argue the issue.)

In the context of manifestation claims, you write, "they just don't hold any more merit than claims of telepathy." I disagree. I think claims for telepathy are FAR more scientifically acceptable than manifestation-of-gods claims. But that's just my opinion and to argue it further might be thread drift.

Now I agree with you squarely when you note that "rationalizations" and dodges do not justify belief.

And no strawman here, I understood you perfectly: "Do you think unfalsifiablity is a point in favor of BELIEF in a God, or a point against it, or neither? Because I would say it's a point against it." I would say it's annoyingly frustrating just as I said, but practically neutral. I don't consider it a point for it because I don't see how unfalsifiability can be an empirical benefit to anything except a God who's testing faith. And I don't consider it a definitive point against belief itself because the horizon-line of empiricism, like life itself, is ever-expanding. Folks who didn't believe Hubble were wrong. To clarify my original statement, I do consider unfalsifiability a point against effective persuasion.

Now when the demon thing was clarified, you dissolved part of my previous comment. You write, "The point was that there's no practical difference between an invisible, incorporeal, heatless-fire-breathing dragon, and no dragon at all." Stated as such, I agree. What changes everything is the inclusion of the determiner, 'practical difference.' If by practical difference you mean amenability to empiricism and not potential to affect one's life, then by all means I agree with you.

Your closing paragraph was good, I'll check out James.

Lastly, you wrote, "Deism is unfalsifiable, but I don't care that much about debunking it..." Understood. Deists aren't typically fighting Trojan Horse battles and that is the ground many a modern intellectual typically stands upon when confronting organized religion.

Spacesocks

Kagehi, please don't bring up the old mental illness accusation. Theists are, in general, no crazier than atheists, so if it's crazy to believe in God, it's fairly normal human craziness. Everybody is prone to irrational thinking, it's just that atheists disbelieve in one particular irrational thing. An individual atheist might have more irrational beliefs, on balance, than an individual theist.

OK cl, I wrote the first half of this before your reply to my last comment showed up, so I'll get to that, too.

The "strange logic a gambler might apply"...you know that's a form of Pascal's Wager, right? Which atheists consider possibly the worst argument ever for belief in God? The way you phrase it is not as bad as the original ("believe in God and be saved, disbelieve and be damned; place your bets accordingly"), but you do realize, don't you, that the Wager in any form cannot assign relative weights to the LIKELIHOOD of either proposition, just a spurious (from our perspective) reward and punishment?

Your (modified) use of the Wager was what made me think you'd read William James; he denounces Pascal's Wager, but argues that it would be reasonable to pursue a "religious hypothesis" if you think it would have good outcomes for you. But the expectation is that these outcomes will be verifiable/falsifiable.

I've read "The Will to Believe" and excerpts from "Pragmatism and the Meaning of Truth" and "The Varieties of Religious Experience." I don't agree with James 100%, but in my opinion he makes some of the most honest arguments for the "reasonableness" of religious belief out there.

So, if you think it's a real possibility that God exists, and you don't want to be "eternally separated" from him, then by all means, entertain that possibility and see where it takes you (but of course, proceed with caution!) If you see it as what James would call a "live hypothesis," it is fair game to explore. For us, though, it's a thoroughly dead hypothesis, and it would not be possible for us to choose to pursue it (except for the sake of argument), any more than it would be possible for you to be swayed by the prospect of eternal separation from the flying spaghetti monster.

Your gambler's logic presupposes the existence of a god (or at least that the existence of God is a "live hypothesis"), and furthermore it presupposes a certain kind of God, i.e., one that it is possible to be separated from based on whether or not you cultivate some kind of relationship or belief in him. Not all possible gods are like that, or even all religious "salvations" and "damnations" either! (it also presupposes the "live" possibility of eternal existence, which most people here would also dismiss).

Atheists such as ourselves will refuse to give credence to any form of Pascal's Wager until it is demonstrated to us that the existence of such a God is a decent possibility in the first place. If that ever happens, we will then be willing to reflect on whether it would be in our best interest to pursue unity with or separation from said entity.

On to your reply:

The mature believers who laugh at prayer studies—they generally don't make the claim that prayer has objectively verifiable effects, do they? I generally assume that a "mature" attitude toward prayer means thinking prayer may be beneficial as a kind of meditative technique, but not as a form of magic powers with an effect on observable reality.

I think a more unilateral claim of atheism is that IF faith is subjective in the first place, then it cannot be used as support for statements that are supposed to be objective facts.

There are plenty of mature religious believers (really, the super-mature ones, not just the regular mature ones) who say that "existence" is an attribute that cannot properly be assigned to God; for example, my philosophy of religion professor, a liberal Christian. The post-theistic theologian Paul Tillich, in his book "Dynamics of Faith," wrote that "a divine being does not exist." Such Gods only exist subjectively, and I think that's totally fine, but only a really mature religious person would be willing to profess faith in a God that they know does not exist in objective reality.

Your point about unfalsifiablity being practically neutral with regard to the likelihood of something being true or not is interesting in light of William James and the "live"/"dead" hypotheses thing, which made me rethink what I said about unfalsifiablity being a point against belief in something.

For example, I consider the possibility of parallel universes to be more likely than the possibility of God's existence, even though both propositions (conceived broadly) are unfalsifiable. I guess it's because, form where I sit, the question of God's existence has been investigated to death, whereas in the case of parallel universes, the possibility is still open that someone might be able to test it, and there has been some promising work done in that direction. All the same, there isn't any convincing evidence that either proposition (parallel universes or God) is real, so I'm not going to say I believe in either one, or even lay any bets on either one. I'm better convinced that there is no God, and that this is the only universe there is. So I think that the prospect that an idea MIGHT prove falsifiable is a point in favor of an unfalsifiable proposition. An idea that's defined as unfalsifiable even in principle is garbage as far as I'm concerned. And a technically falsifiable God that seems to have been effectively debunked, and is now justified only by the flimsiest of rationalizations? Also garbage.

cl

(sorry if this comment posts twice)

@ Spacesocks,


Right on. Thank you for appreciating whatever I said about "unfalsifiablity being practically neutral." Makes me want to check out James even more now!

However, I feel you and Kagehi have gotten a wee tad out of line. Why?

IF-THEN statments are NOT arguments for God.

Here's the definition of Pascal's Wager: "...suggestion posed by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should "wager" as though God exists."

The exact words of mine that are being twisted into a "modified use of Pascal's Wager" were, "I think if the possibility of eternal separation from God is something one might wish to avoid, then one might be justified in seriously entertaining the possibility of God's existence whether they think God has failed as a scientifically-framed hypothesis or not. Contrary, if the possibility of eternal separation from God is not a big deal to one, then I'd say one has no reason to pursue the matter at all."

In your closing question a few comments ago, you asked me under what grounds I felt one might be justified in pursuing the question of God. That was the context I responded under. Folks, this clearly IS NOT Pascal's Wager. It's a neutral if-then statement that favors no particular outcome. Pascal's Wager urges that the person it is wagered upon make a choice for God; as you properly noted, Spacesocks, Pascal's Wager is an "argument for God." The wager is an argument for God, in YOUR OWN WORDS. Pascal's Wager says one better pursue the question and decide in the affirmative. cl says, "if the matter is important to one, one might be justified to pursue it." The former statement appeals to a specific end, the latter statement aims to persuade no particular point.

Thus, you and Kagehi have incorrectly framed a singular statement of mine as being a modification of Pascal's Wager. Either one of you could have asked me if this is what I was in fact arguing, but since you both assumed incorrectly without asking, I had to defend myself.

I don't have much to say about anything else in your last comment, though.

Spacesocks

It's not that I thought you were trying to convert us or anything, CL. My point was that it has the Pascal's Wager ring to it. I have more patience for Jamesian versions of it, which seems to be how you used it. I recognize you intended it as an if-then, not a manipulative bad argument.

cl

Well, okay..either way I enjoyed your critiques and found them profitable. Thank you, I hope the exchanges might have shed a little more light on where I'm coming from. Stop by any time..

Alan

I came upon this post via a link in AlterNet, and even though the thread is over two years old, I feel a need to contribute to the discussion.

The assertion that there are subjective ways of knowing God which bypass the need for empiric observations and logic merely pushes the ultimate question one step into the distance, but does not avoid the necessity of having to answer it. For how else can one verify an alternative way of knowing God without proving that God does, indeed, exist? Without such proof, the subjective "knowledge" of God's existence is nothing more than an individual's interior feeling about the objective universe. Yes, the feeling is absolutely real, but its validity regarding an objective God in the objective universe rests upon objective proof that God exists. In other words, the "other kind of knowing" argument is nothing more than a variation of the good old fashioned leap of faith. Never mentioned, of course, is the self evident truth that If something were really known, no such leap would be necessary.

The situation is not unlike that which pertains to the question of the origin of the universe. Religious believers routinely insist that the universe had to come from somewhere, and that somewhere must be the hand of God. Which, of course, begs the question, where did God come from? Does not the same chain of cause and effect apply to him as well? In effect, the question of ultimate origins has been pushed one step away but remains unanswered.

Fentex

You make an argument that it would be aesthetically pleasing for some to believe in a god they like but no argument that there is one.

You or I may differ over the quality of a painting but we likely wouldn't differ over the fact of it's existence in front of us.

And just as you may be pleased to believe in a god you like I suspect you'd be unhappy to believe in a god you didn't like.

Your aesthetic judgement may discard that god as I disregard your opinion of the painting I do not like.

The issue of proof of god is to discern if any god, whether one is pleased or displeased to be shown, exists, not to assert how one feels about the idea.

sears credit card

Very interesting post!.. Didn't miss every word in it. Great job!

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