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God Is Impossible?


scitsofreaky
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I'm not aware of this discussion here, so if there is one already let me know.

Anyway, I joined a humanist forum recently and was immediately drawn to a topic entitled "Why is God impossible" (or something to that effect), and there are people honestly arguing that god cannot possibly exist. This is not a stance I am too familiar with, I generally only see it with relatively young people.

The argument seems to focus on the idea/fact that no current concept of god has been, or, in most cases, can't be proven. I am fine with this, but I don't see how you can then say god is impossible. Impossible is a strong word, one that, imo, should be used carefully because to know if there is no possibility, you have to have complete knowledge of the subject, right?

But, because this is a new stance, I wanted to ask people here what they think, and I put this in the colosseum so that it stays on a very specific topic: Is the existence of god impossible?

Also, if you don't think it is impossible, why not?

 

NOTE: Just to make sure I'm being entirely sure, because there seems to be potential for confusion, I am not asking if god exists.

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I believe that the existence of god impossible. In many parts of the bible god changes his mind. Like in the story of sodom and gomera(<--sp?). he kept changing his mind about how many people needed to be found in order to spare the city. and yet in the bible it says god doesn't change, and im assuming this also means his mind but the bible as far as i know is not clear on this. so maybe god is possible but only in the minds of people.

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I believe that the existence of god impossible. In many parts of the bible god changes his mind. Like in the story of sodom and gomera(<--sp?). he kept changing his mind about how many people needed to be found in order to spare the city. and yet in the bible it says god doesn't change, and im assuming this also means his mind but the bible as far as i know is not clear on this. so maybe god is possible but only in the minds of people.

Ok, this is the same issue I had to deal with before. Bible-god is not the only concpet of god. Obviously I do not believe YHWH exists, otherwise I wouldn't be an ex-xian, but what about, say, a deistic god who does not effect man in any way?

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some stuff you could read if you scroll up

Ok, this is the same issue I had to deal with before. Bible-god is not the only concpet of god. Obviously I do not believe YHWH exists, otherwise I wouldn't be an ex-xian, but what about, say, a deistic god who does not effect man in any way?

if there is a "deistic god who does not effect man in any way" then why should we be conserned or even bother trying to under stand something that can't and probly wont be proven. :shrug:

btw i hope this dosent kill the tread cuz this is a good topic.

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if there is a "deistic god who does not effect man in any way" then why should we be conserned or even bother trying to under stand something that can't and probly wont be proven.
I understand completely. This is actually something I struggle with as a deist, or sorts. I can only say why I do (to put the issue to rest): because I'm curious and I cna't stop wanting to know. For me, the search is more important than the destination.
btw i hope this dosent kill the tread cuz this is a good topic.
If it is a good topic, then it will be fine. If it isn't, that's ok.
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Ok, this is the same issue I had to deal with before. Bible-god is not the only concpet of god. Obviously I do not believe YHWH exists, otherwise I wouldn't be an ex-xian, but what about, say, a deistic god who does not effect man in any way?

 

Well, nothing's impossible. Given the vastness of the universe, the odds of a god of some sort existing are incalculable. But a deistic god who doesn't affect anything might as well not exist. :shrug:

 

And as for biblegod (and really, all other gods as well), a being who has the power to do things like create life, destroy cities/nations, and do all kinds of supernatural miracles? And was very interested in mankind? If he was real, we wouldn't be wondering if he existed or not. He'd be showing up all the time, casting lightning bolts at our heads and defeating armies.

 

So are gods impossible? I think so, just for the fact that they don't make their presence known. It would be impossible for them not to do so.

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Well, what exactly is a god?

 

If we define it as something that already exists (force of nature, the universe itself), then we commit a logical fallacy of equivocation.

 

The only other option is to then use the "omnimax", which we know is a logical impossibility.

 

If we simply say "a higher power", then that degenerates into meaninglessness.

 

If we simply say "the creator of the universe" then we are again guilty of a meaningless statement.

 

Therefore, god is an impossibility.

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Well, what exactly is a god?
This is the heart of the issue. I really don't know how to define god, and I doubt there is any one definition everybody would agree on.
we define it as something that already exists (force of nature, the universe itself), then we commit a logical fallacy of equivocation.
Ah, this makes me think of Bruce v Ssel. Of course renaming something "god" is fallacious, and it is also meaningless, names bear no effect on what anything actually is (A rose smells as sweet by any other name).
The only other option is to then use the "omnimax", which we know is a logical impossibility.
What if our logic is wrong? (Oh yes, the dreaded "what if"s)
If we simply say "a higher power", then that degenerates into meaninglessness.

 

If we simply say "the creator of the universe" then we are again guilty of a meaningless statement.

Can you elaborate why these are meaningless statements?

 

And as for biblegod (and really, all other gods as well), a being who has the power to do things like create life, destroy cities/nations, and do all kinds of supernatural miracles? And was very interested in mankind? If he was real, we wouldn't be wondering if he existed or not. He'd be showing up all the time, casting lightning bolts at our heads and defeating armies.

So are gods impossible? I think so, just for the fact that they don't make their presence known. It would be impossible for them not to do so.

You are assuming that god would act upon this world. You are making a generalization that doesn't seem to hold up. Like I asked before, what about a deistic god that does not effect us or this world?
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At any rate, i think if you combine all the properties that classical judeo-christian theology predicates of God, you get contradictions. So not all those properties can be attributed to one being without annihilating all discourse.

 

Theologians try to get around this by saying that we predicate properties of things univocally, equivocally, or analogically. If language about God is univocal, that means each word asserted about him has the same signification that it has when it's applied to humans (univocal - one voice). Clearly, that can't be the case if God is defined as a superhuman entity. If language about God is equivocal, that means each term has one meaning when applied to God and a substantially different meaning when applied to humans. Clearly, we could then say nothing meaningful about God. So medieval theologians said God talk is analogical - there is enough likeness between human and God so that we have some understanding when we predicate some property P of God, but we don't exhaust its range of meaning as it applies to God.

 

I used to accept this happily, but I think it actually collapses into one or the other horn of the dilemma. If we say that God is omnipotent and loving and that he purposes to inflict suffering on rational creatures when he could do something else, then I think we're stringing together a series of claims that result in contradiction, however you try to provide wiggle room by hedging the meaning of "loving" or whatever. To say religious language avoids contradiction by being analogical is so vague that it reduces god talk to vagueness (e.g. "god is love" means NOTHING), or else it's just false.

 

The above remarks do not amount to an argument against the existence of some sort of supreme being.

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What if our logic is wrong? (Oh yes, the dreaded "what if"s)

 

I think it would be highly unlikely that logic would be wrong. But logic is an observance of reality and identity. If our logic is wrong, or if the entity is not dependant upon logic, then that being is meaningless to our view of reality.

 

Can you elaborate why these are meaningless statements?

 

They are arbitrary and vague. Saying those things contain as much meaning as saying "flying purple monkeys created the universe.

 

You are assuming that god would act upon this world. You are making a generalization that doesn't seem to hold up. Like I asked before, what about a deistic god that does not effect us or this world?

 

By the simple act of creating the universe, the Deist god has affected everything.

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Naturally the existence of an omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent god is impossible with the laws of logic and physics as they are in this universe. Any 2 of these properties together would be impossible. I'd explain how, but it's been a while since I last debated this and I kinda forgot.

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Naturally the existence of an omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent god is impossible with the laws of logic and physics as they are in this universe. Any 2 of these properties together would be impossible. I'd explain how, but it's been a while since I last debated this and I kinda forgot.

Oh, don't worry about explaining that, I am aware that one cannot be omniscient and omnipotent. But what if god is not omni- anything?

think it would be highly unlikely that logic would be wrong. But logic is an observance of reality and identity. If our logic is wrong, or if the entity is not dependant upon logic, then that being is meaningless to our view of reality.
I don't think "unlikely" can lead one to know that something cannot exist. I cannot help but agree that if "god" is not dependant on our logic, or if our logic is wrong "god" would be totally meaningless to our current view. But logic can and does change, so I don't see how we can totally dismiss the idea of a god.
They are arbitrary and vague.
Fair enough.
By the simple act of creating the universe, the Deist god has affected everything.
Sorry, I wasn't very clear. The classical deist view of god is that it created the universe, and has not effected the universe since.
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I don't think "unlikely" can lead one to know that something cannot exist. I cannot help but agree that if "god" is not dependant on our logic, or if our logic is wrong "god" would be totally meaningless to our current view. But logic can and does change, so I don't see how we can totally dismiss the idea of a god.

 

Well if you can point out anything other than "what-ifs", and show where logic has changed, I'd be interested to see.

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What if our logic is wrong? (Oh yes, the dreaded "what if"s)

 

I don't see how you can construct an argument to show that logic is wrong without making use of logic in your argument. That's why the fundamental rules of thought are usually considered axiomatic. Any discourse presupposes them, and any argument, even one against them, uses them. There may be some ways of making logic able to represent a wider range of utterances than propositions, but that's a narrower problem. There have also been advances in logic - i.e. modern predicate logic replacing the syllogistic - but those who made the advances still used the fundamental rules of thought, like non-contradiction, identity, and excluded middle. I think a few people are trying to construct a logic of possibilities, which would go beyond excluded middle, but I don't think they've met with much success.

 

OK I'll stop derailing the topic now.

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OK I'll stop derailing the topic now.
I don't think this is a derailment at all, logic is, of course, the very basis of this discussion. How did/do we decide what was logical and what wasn't?
I think a few people are trying to construct a logic of possibilities, which would go beyond excluded middle, but I don't think they've met with much success.
Which seems, dare I say, logical. From my understanding, logic is the study of arguments (right?), and I don't see how an argument could possibly be right while still being pertinent to an argument. You can't really argue possibilities (*lightbulb appears above head* and now I see a flaw in this discussion).
Well if you can point out anything other than "what-ifs", and show where logic has changed, I'd be interested to see.
Can we agree that logic is based upon how we view the world and existence? So anytime there is a shift in world view, logic would change.

But, if we are just talking about since the concept of logic was, um, created (not the word I want to use), then I don't know of any time logic has changed.

I guess it just depends.

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Can we agree that logic is based upon how we view the world and existence?

 

Everything is based upon sense experience. The formation of the laws of logic itself are based on observations of reality, just like the laws of physics.

 

So anytime there is a shift in world view, logic would change.

 

No, that would be like saying gravity would change when there is a shift in world view.

 

But, if we are just talking about since the concept of logic was, um, created (not the word I want to use), then I don't know of any time logic has changed.

I guess it just depends.

 

The thing to understand is that while our perception of the world can change, what is true and false objectively does not.

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I think a few people are trying to construct a logic of possibilities, which would go beyond excluded middle, but I don't think they've met with much success.
Which seems, dare I say, logical. From my understanding, logic is the study of arguments (right?), and I don't see how an argument could possibly be right while still being pertinent to an argument. You can't really argue possibilities (*lightbulb appears above head* and now I see a flaw in this discussion).

 

 

Hi, Scitsofreaky. I don't quite get what you say in your paragraph above. From my understanding, the logic of possibility people do something like this. Say there's a light in the next room, but we don't know whether it's switched on or off. So at time t while we're sitting in our room, the law of excluded middle says that either it is true that the light in the next room is on, or it's false. Most people would say one or the other proposition is true now but not both, and there is no middle ground. We just don't know which proposition is true yet. The innovators want to say that there's a logic of possibility because it's possible now that either the light's on or it's off. They want to go beyond this and deny the law of excluded middle. I.e. they want to deny that we have a disjunction, "either P or not-P," and they want to say instead that we have something like "both P and not-P are possible at the same time" (that is, until we go in and verify).

 

That's my understanding of the logic of possibility/denial of excluded middle. I suspect Asimov would disagree with the "logic of possibilities" people, based on what he said above, and I disagree. I think the law of excluded middle still governs our reasoning about the unknown state of affairs in the next room.

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i, Scitsofreaky. I don't quite get what you say in your paragraph above
Oh, sorry, I'm confusing myself. :Doh: I seem to have gone off on my own tangent.

The logic of possibility seems just like Schroedinger's(spelling?) cat, which, I'm sure you are aware, demonstrates the very idea that both P and ~P are possible at the same time until P/~P is actually observed. Are there any good books/links you would recommend, because I am very interested now that I actually understand what you are saying (forgive me, I can be a bit slow at times).

The thing to understand is that while our perception of the world can change, what is true and false objectively does not.
Of course, I wasn't trying to say that truth actually changes. But what we percieve as truth does change, so how can we objectively know what actually is true? At any given point in history, people "knew" what was true, just to have it be proven otherwise. What makes you think modern ideas are any different?
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At any given point in history, people "knew" what was true, just to have it be proven otherwise.

 

Well, no they didn't know it was true. In order for someone to know something is true is has to be true, believed, and justified.

 

People in Biblical times believed that epileptic fits were caused by demons. They "knew" this to be true.

 

Since it can't be demonstrated that demons cause epileptic fits, since it cannot be justified to believe that demons cause epileptic fits, and since it is only believed by some that demons cause this we can conclude that they only claimed to know.

 

Many people claim to know things, but that doesn't mean they do.

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The logic of possibility seems just like Schroedinger's(spelling?) cat, which, I'm sure you are aware, demonstrates the very idea that both P and ~P are possible at the same time until P/~P is actually observed. Are there any good books/links you would recommend, because I am very interested now that I actually understand what you are saying (forgive me, I can be a bit slow at times).

 

 

I've been intrigued by the Schroedinger's Cat paradox. I don't have enough physics to make a professional response. I have talked with various people who have a background in graduate level physics. My understanding is this: the math tells us that the probability is something like 50-50 of the cat's being alive or dead.

 

That's what the paradox resolves to, as I understand it. The issue with logical arguments is that most human discourse is not formulated in the language of logic. You have to reframe most arguments into a logical form that isolates the propositions put forth in those arguments and shows what is entailed by what. I'm sure you agree with this. So I think S's paradox sounds paradoxical because the paradox arises from the way we talk about the cat and the box. If we say "it is the case at time t that the probability of the cat's being dead and the probability of the cat's being alive are equal," or something like that, we accurately represent the state of affairs while generating no contradictions.

 

If we say "the cat is alive and the cat is not alive under the same set of relations," then the problem is that we've slid from calculating probability to asserting a contradiction. Our new statement annihilates all discourse, because anything follows from a contradiction. If you predicate P and not-P of the cat at the same time, it follows that Jesus is God, Satan is my mother, my water bottle is the devil...

 

The cat imagery is a metaphor of the problem of determining the location and velocity of an electron, or something like that, I forget now. I think the scientific problem was, given that electron's movements under certain conditions are random (i.e. can't be predicted), how can we make predictive statements about two of its properties, when one is correlated to the other? I think this generates a problem of how we talk about states of affairs where some feature cannot be known. In my view right now, the most we can do is repeat what the math tells us. What the math tells us is a network of probabilities. So the testible statement will be a statement of the measured probabilities. Statements of the form "the electron is A at time t" are either true or false, but we do not know the truth value of the statement at time t.

 

Hmm

 

 

Anyway, I think S was pointing to uncertainties of how we measure, and difficulties of making statements under those conditions. He did not succeed in exploding the laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle in logic. Maybe one could argue that such utterances, which are in principle not testible when they're uttered, are not statements at all. That saves logic, since it only deals with statements (utterances that are true or false), not all types of utterances.

 

So, when we say, "God is love," maybe we're not making a statement. It's a kind of poetry, not an assertion about what is the case. This is getting too deep for me.

 

I'd be interested in your take on this, plus yours, Spooky and Neil and CT and Zach et al, if you guys are on this thread.

 

I had some books on Schroedinger's Paradox but I gave them back to my scientist colleague because I ran out of time to read them. If I come up with the titles or other sources I'll post them.

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:phew:

 

I'm going to leave the logic to the experts and just give my personal understandings.

 

I view god as a life energy or an unconditioned consciousness. This tells me that god is not a supernatural entity that exists outside of us...it is the very essence of life itself. It sustains life because it is life. Alan Watts said something that was very profound to me. He stated that we can view consciousness (in life) as a complicated form of minerals or we can view minerals as a rudimentary form of consciousness. The result does not change. The truth is that we are still conscious beings but our perspective changes. This results in a different way of viewing life.

 

As has been said above, the truth doesn't change. But with the change in perspective, the truth is understood on a deeper level. Yes, we are conscious beings, that is true. But, with the understanding that there has to be, IMO, a consciousness that prevades everything that exists gives more meaning to the 'truth'. There is some reason we are conscious or alive. If minerals were not a rudimentary form of this "Consciousness", why is it that we are conscious if we consist only of minerals?

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I've been intrigued by the Schroedinger's Cat paradox. I don't have enough physics to make a professional response. I have talked with various people who have a background in graduate level physics. My understanding is this: the math tells us that the probability is something like 50-50 of the cat's being alive or dead....

From my understanding, SC isn't so much about the actual probabilities, but our knowledge. In reality, the cat is either alive or dead, it can't be both, but we do not know which it is until we observe it. So, relative to our knowledge, the cat is actually both dead and alive. But when we do observe it, we have to contend with Heisenber's Uncertainty Principle(HUP), which, it seems to me, may mean that the very act of observing has caused the cat to be either alive or dead.

Hmm indeed. I'm not even sure how to relate this to god, or logic for that matter.

So, when we say, "God is love," maybe we're not making a statement. It's a kind of poetry, not an assertion about what is the case.
Perhaps you are right. I think for something to be considered a statement, it has to be testable in some way, which this is not, and so neither is its negative (God is not love). To test such an utterance, it would havce to be argued, but since neither the positive or negative are really even arguable, all the arguement would be is, "God is love" "God is not love." This has lead us nowhere.

And I think this directly relates to "God is possible" "God is impossible." Neither statement can really be tested. "God is impossible" is totally untestable because you cannot prove something does not exist. That leaves us with "God is possible." The only way to verify this statement is to actually discover god, but once that is done, the statement worthless because the existence of god is certain. But even the term "God" hinders this because there are a plethera of definitions, including some that render god "undefinable." How can one possibly prove something that is undefinable exists?

One definition I have toyed with for quite some time is pure observer. Per HUP, some physicists think that for something to exist, it must be observed. So, they are looking for what observed the universe so that it could exist. But for that to exist, it must have been observed as well. So either this continues ad infinitum(spelling? you know what I mean), or it leads to something that is purely an observer, that is, it contains no other properties besides observation. The problem with this is that it cannot be verified because we cannot observe something that is only observation (we can't watch watching). I don't know if I am explaining this well, but a good book to read that deals with pure observer (although not scientifically) is Ken Wilber's No Boundaries.

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It seems to me that the one common point in all of these definitions is "that which created the universe". If I'm wrong about that, please let me know.

 

As has been stated before, this "creator" definition falls victim to the infinite regression problem of "who created the creator".

 

If you argue that the creator is uncaused, then I would counter the universe is uncaused and remove the unecessary step of a creator.

 

I guess my point is I have never heard of a "natural" definition for "god" that seems consistent. If this was a truly univeral property of somekind, it's seems very subjective in appearance...

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It seems to me that the one common point in all of these definitions is "that which created the universe". If I'm wrong about that, please let me know.

 

As has been stated before, this "creator" definition falls victim to the infinite regression problem of "who created the creator".

 

If you argue that the creator is uncaused, then I would counter the universe is uncaused and remove the unecessary step of a creator.

 

I guess my point is I have never heard of a "natural" definition for "god" that seems consistent. If this was a truly univeral property of somekind, it's seems very subjective in appearance...

Call it the universe if you like. :grin: But, can you deny there is intelligence in the universe?

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