Scientific proof of god's existence

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by dbnp48, Jan 23, 2011.

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  1. dbnp48 Q.E.D. Registered Senior Member

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    People have been presenting "proofs" of god's existence for centuries. Here's a link that covers them:
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/godproof.htm

    Is it possible to scientifically prove or disprove the existence of god(s)? Or, if not prove, at least provide some evidence one way or the other.

    If you think it is possible, how would you go about it?
     
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  3. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    No. Think about it - if it were possible, it would have been done by now.
     
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  5. NCDane Registered Senior Member

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    I hope some specialist (i.e. a PhD in Phisics) may be able to comment
    on what follows.

    I think there is an interpetation of Quantum Mechanics, taken seriously
    by expert opinion, that the universe is to some extent observer-based,
    that is, to be is to be perceived, and Bishop Berkeley may have been
    right all along: esse est percipi.

    If this interpreation is fully correct, then, with apologies to Albert Einstein,
    the Moon in fact does not exist unless at least one mouse is looking at it.
    This poses some issues for the era before which mice and men arrived on
    the scene. Most dramatically, who "obseved" the Bing Bang? Who could
    have observed it, other than God?

    (BTW I am an atheist)
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    In general, it is extremely difficult to prove a negative. In fact, if one adheres to the scientific method, it is not even necessary. The burden of proof is always on the person who makes a positive assertion. He must provide supporting evidence in the form of observation and/or logical reasoning before anyone is obliged to treat his assertion with respect. Once he does that, then in accordance with the scientific method we can peer-review his evidence or reasoning. If we succeed in falsifying it, with a community of peers looking on to make sure we did it honestly, competently and scientifically, then he's back where he started, with one of the millions of unsupported hypotheses that we ignore every day.

    In other words, we can't disprove the existence of gods, but we don't have to since it's an assertion with no respectable evidence. In just the same way, we don't have to prove that dogs can't fly, because there is no evidence that they can.
    To prove the existence of gods, one must start with the presentation of evidence. I will digress here and explain the Rule of Laplace, one of the cornerstones of the scientific method: Extraordinary assertions must be supported by extraordinary evidence before anyone is obliged to treat them with respect. (Notice that we are not obliged to mock them, but we are free to do so, which is why you see so much of that mocking on SciForums.)

    Now the scientific method, indeed all of science, is derived from the premise that the natural universe is a closed system whose behavior can be predicted by reasoning logically from empirical evidence of its present and past behavior. To assert that a supernatural universe exists, full of invisible, irrational creatures and other forces who have the power to capriciously interfere with the behavior of the natural universe, is to assert that the scientific method is false, and is therefore the granddaddy of all extraordinary assertions. The reason is that the scientific method is recursive; it has been tested by its own methods for half a millennium, and it has never come close to being falsified. So you can easily see that for someone to claim that it is, indeed, incorrect, he is going to have to come up with some pretty extraordinary evidence. The typical "evidence," such as one of the tens of billions of tortillas that are sold every year having on it a splotch that is said to be the likeness of a biblical figure, of whom no portraits exist against which to compare it for accuracy, is clearly not extraordinary evidence.
    The scientific study of the natural universe is not complete. Things occasionally happen that defy our attempts to explain them scientifically. Abiogenesis is an important example which is in the news. We have some very good ideas about how the first living matter developed naturally from non-living matter, but there are still parts of the process that we don't understand.

    The best way to falsify science would probably be to start with one of these high-profile enigmas and look for evidence of supernatural causes. Note that simply saying that we haven't found a natural mechanism is not the same as proving that there is a supernatural mechanism. Both sides in the controversy still have to do their homework. The first side that finds evidence for their assertion shifts the burden of proof to the other side: they must falsify the evidence.
     
  8. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    No. Once you have proof of God, then God goes from theology to physics - and what we know as God no longer exists.
     
  9. dbnp48 Q.E.D. Registered Senior Member

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    I don't understand. God, if proven, no longer exists?
     
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    God as belief in a supernatural being no longer exists, because he is no longer supernatural once we place him in the natural world. Faith no longer exists; no need for faith when you have measurements. Once we understand God to any degree he becomes physics.
     
  11. dbnp48 Q.E.D. Registered Senior Member

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    That sounds like you think that understanding god in a scientific sense will diminish him/her/it/them.
     
  12. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    You can't diminsh the universe, but understanding does remove it from the realm of magic.
     
  13. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    You are probably thinking of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. But what you are actually describing is the idea that consciousness causes wave function collapse. This idea is often confused with the Copenhagen interpretation and I doubt that many physicists take it seriously.

    Additionally, the manner in which Einstein stated his objection can be misleading. Even if you did subscribe to the idea that consciousness causes wave function collapse, it would not be strictly correct to say that the moon doesn't exist unless someone is looking at it. It's more correct to say that the moon exists in a superposition of both being there and not being there. But regardless of it's state, all of the matter and/or energy that the moon is made of always exists somewhere in the universe. There is a fundamental difference between saying that an observer is necessary for wave function collapse and that an observer is necessary for anything to exist.
     
  14. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    No, it will just move God from religion to science. One of the fundamental properties of any religion is that it is based on unprovable suppositions that must be taken on faith. Eliminate that and you've changed it into something completely different.
     
  15. dbnp48 Q.E.D. Registered Senior Member

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    Isn't evidence better than faith? Assuming god exists, I can't see how evidence of that existence changes god in any way.
     
  16. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    12,798
    To a scientist? Yes. To a true believer? Probably not.

    Well, for one thing, given that every religion out there has differing (and often very, very detailed) perceptions of what God is, it's a pretty safe bet that 90% of the world's religions (if not 100%) will be invalidated if it turns out God is a hydrogen-plasma based consciousness who interacts with us through modulation of the solar wind.

    And what if what we discover is not one God, but weakly Godlike beings that really have nothing to do with us, and didn't have much to do with the creation of the universe? Heck, in that cases, religion might just ignore them completely and thus continue to keep God and science separate.

    Trying to figure out what we might discover about the scientific nature of God is speculation in its purest form. But one thing is almost certain - whatever we discover (if anything) it will be nothing like what we expected.
     
  17. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    Define what you mean by the word "god".
     
  18. dbnp48 Q.E.D. Registered Senior Member

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    An omnipotent, omniscient being that created the universe. Benvolence is optional but highly desirable.

    Here's a link to other suggested traits:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God
     
  19. NCDane Registered Senior Member

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    My impression was that Copenhagen QM defitintiely requires
    a wavefunction collapse, and situates in it the measuring device,
    thus conferring a special status on the measuring device that
    many experts find troubling.

    Von Neumann, at least at some point, situated the collapse
    in the human mind, which could hardly be more satisfactory
    to those who objected to it being in a microsope, or whatever.

    Eugene Wigner seems to me to have gone even further than
    Von Neumann, and it was his interpretation I was alluding to:

    http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/scientists/wigner/

    (from link, my emphasis):



    I am not sure that Wigner would agree with you, and I wonder if
    Einstein did not have Wigner in mind when he spoke of mice and
    the moon.
     
  20. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

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    It's a bit more than the human mind making a collapse, a simple theory is thus:

    Lets say a person comes up with a cost efficient way of terraforming planets and getting people to them quicker.

    Throughout their life up to that climactic point, they will have had a various number of choices that would have effected this outcome. If those choices hadn't of been deterministic then the outcome would no longer exist. Those choices however all split down to on vary basic choice that person doesn't have control over, their birth.

    If there was complications in birth, then their whole deterministic house of cards would come crashing down, robbing the very universe of their expertise. Interesting enough the universe potential mass displacement caused by the duality based upon this persons birth would likely cause a rather interesting Doppler Effect, it would indeed make a big WOW!
     
  21. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

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    Besides which, the world of quantum phenomena is the world of the very small. Large items do not behave in a quantum manner. So saying the moon will not exist if unobserved is inaccurate.

    I found the reference in the OP more amusing than enlightening. The 'proofs' were so full of obvious holes that my guess is that whoever posted them did so tongue in cheek.

    As Fraggle said, the 'proof' of deity must be positive, and it is up to the deity itself, or its believers to provide that proof. This would be easy for a deity that is omnipotent. I would be convinced if it popped down to say hello, performed a few miracles, and left me with a supernatural ability for the rest of my life, so that I would not have further doubts. All of this would be easy for God if it was as traditionally described.
     
  22. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    Wigner was a very smart and interesting man. But he was also as much a philosopher as he was a physicist. His exploration of the possible metaphysical implications of physical theory combined with his belief in a mysterious and miraculous connection between mathematics, physics and the capacity of the human mind to make sense of it all eventually led him to start thinking of the universe itself as being some kind of all pervading consciousness. I'm not saying that he completely embraced this idea. In fact he seemed to remain a rational scientist right into his final years. In the end, by his own admission, he had simply made peace with the mystery of it all. I'd love to talk some more on this because last night I spent a few hours researching the man and his ideas and reflecting upon them. It was all quite compelling. But, well, another thread at another time. What we are trying to do here is establish whether or not Wigner's ideas could count as evidence of the existence of some kind of God.

    If we were to define God as a universal consciousness that is inextricably linked with physical reality then we could argue that there was once a brilliant physicist who's efforts to make sense of the quantum world lead him to a similar conclusion. Wigner didn't use the word God of course, but it's all just semantics really. However, being that we already know that consciousness is a feature of reality, as evidence by the fact that you're sitting there reading this, it's not really anything new. Consciousness is here, but isn't the question of God more about why it is here and how it all came to be?

    This brings me back to your original hypothetical argument that the existence of consciousness may be necessary for the existence of anything (which I agree essentially seems to be the same argument that Wigner was making) and that it may then make some kind of sense to suggest that the universe itself could not possibly exist unless consciousness existed first. But there is no doubt that more than one person out there who is reading this right will be worried about Wigner turning in his grave over this huge leap. We haven't just departed from physics, we've wandered a long way even from justifiable metaphysical speculation. You can't call any of this scientific evidence, no matter how intriguing it may be to think about.

    I don't have a problem with getting stuck into the philosophical thick of things. In fact I love it. But we'd need to do it in a different forum.
     
  23. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    2,760
    Interesting concept... an all powerful, all knowong being that exists external to the universe. Where do you suppose this being came from?
     
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