TGD – Why science can never answer the ‘God question’

As I mentioned in my Chapter 2 review, Dawkins emphasizes the point that, in his opinion, eventually science will answer the question of whether God exists. He suggests there can only be “temporary agnosticism” because by his way of thinking, science will someday answer every question.

The point of this post is to rebut that idea.

Science is a method of discovery and like all methods it is limited in what it can discover. As Dawkins should well know, the scientific method works by theorems being suggested and then experiments are done to either validate or disprove those theorems. Because of the very nature of that method, the theorem must be falsifiable. Additionally, because of the lack of trust in any one experiment (where some unknown factor could have thrown off the results) the experiments must repeatable in nature.

It’s a great method of discovery as history has shown.

However, it has its limitations. The number one limitation in this realm is its inability to deal with intelligence. By it’s very nature, repeatability ASSUMES that the thing being observed be governed by simple laws. It might be that those laws are compounded upon one another to create what seems complex until it is broken down, but in principle every aspect of the experiment must be dealing with something “mechanical” and unintelligent.

By way of example. If the law of gravity could decide to suspend itself, because it was intelligent and could act on a whim if it so desired, we’d have all these experiments that “disproved” gravity. Gravity didn’t work the way it was supposed to in some instances and therefore, at a minimum, our model of gravity is incomplete. But when a scientist goes to refine that model, they assume yet another simple factor is complicating the situation. Gravity can’t be intelligent and science assumes as much.

God, by His very definition is intelligent. He can not be reduced to simple laws. If he could, he wouldn’t be God, at least in the way just about every notable religion of the world views God. God is intelligent and therefore can not be predicted or reduced to simple laws or theorems.

As such, science can never prove God, it could only disprove it. The best science could ever do regarding the question of God is to answer every possible question about how every single event happened and will happen and therefore show that there is nothing intelligent out there interfering with the laws science has uncovered.

Which is of course exactly the situation Dawkins wants. He wants to use a method that could only possibly come up with the answer he’s hoping for. He also wants, in the mean time while you’re waiting for that “glorious day” when science has disproved every aspect of a intelligent being beyond this world, for you to be “temporarily agnostic” but leaning towards atheist because science has yet to show any evidence for God. Which as I’ve shown, it is incapable of doing.

Coming at the same issue from another perspective, let’s look at a few examples Dawkins uses in the chapter.

He talks about whether Jesus had an earthly father and that it could, in theory, be answered scientifically. Dawkins admits that the necessary scientific evidence doesn’t exist anymore, Jesus having died 2000 years ago and there being no trace of His earthy remains (curious thing, isn’t it? :) ). But let’s pretend for a moment that we had the needed evidence, say a sample of Jesus’s DNA and infinite scientific resources to examine the question. What would we do with it then?

A scientist would suggest, let’s take Jesus’s DNA and match it against every man who could have possibly been Jesus’s father. They’d have to exhume a bunch of dead guys and it would be a massive effort but it could be done. Now, if the genetic analysis came back and said that some guy was his father, that would be a compelling point that the claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin (at least in the genetic sense, which is what we care about in this case) is false.

But what if the research is done an no father can be found, what then?

I can guarantee you that Dawkins answer would not be to concede that Jesus was in fact the son of God. No, there could be other answers. Perhaps we missed some possible candidate father. Perhaps Mary was cloned and then genetically manipulated into a man. And if that didn’t bear any fruit, there would be other possible scientific answers. And if Dawkins ever ran out of experiments he could do, he imagine 30 more that were not possible at this time.

There’s got to be SOME ANSWER!?!

See how it works? He’s created a playing field where only naturalistic answers are accepted because it’s the only type of answer the scientific method can test. Dawkins likely has the same response to the miracle at Fatima that 70,000 people witnesses less than 100 years ago. There is no denying that something happened between the photographic evidence and first hand accounts that can not be dismissed as “legends” or something similar.

I suspect Dawkins will readily admit he doesn’t have the answer, but he’ll continue to look for one. The fact that there is not yet a scientific explanation doesn’t not mean there is not one. And while that’s true as far as it goes, it’s a method that purposely ignores the miraculous answer.

But how are the rest of us to respond to that miracle in the mean time? Science has no answer, but we’ve got 70,000 witness who said it happened. Are we to simply wait around twiddling our thumbs giving science infinite time to do futile experiments? Or would Dawkins admit is it reasonable for us to say that the preponderance of the evidence suggests it’s a miracle? I suspect he would not. To throw Dawkins own words back at him:

Some disprovable things are sensibly judged far less probable than other undisprovable things.

Dawkins makes the statement above at the end of “The Poverty of Agnosticism” section. He makes the point in regards to God. He’s saying that Just because we can’t disprove God, doesn’t mean that it’s a 50%/50% proposition. Well, he needs to live and die by the same sword then. Who can honestly tell me that the evidence in the Fatima case deserves to be treated equally? Science has no credible retort to what is a well documented miracle. Why are we to keep a naturalistic explanation that hasn’t even yet been proposed, much less tested, on equal ground with what the evidence of those people, both believers and doubters, have brought forward.

To use another example from the book, Dawkins spends a whole section of the chapter talking about the “Great Prayer Experiment”. The experiment attempts to determine whether intercessory prayer works by creating a perfectly valid scientific experiment.

The fact that anyone would attempt the experiment shows that they don’t get the limitation of science to matters for which there is no intelligent being acting upon the experiment. It is trying to either prove over disprove that intercessory prayer either works or doesn’t work in a formulaic sense, i.e. “enough prayers” or “the right prayers” will always result in someone being healed. OK, perhaps the person being prayed for needs to be holy too, or perhaps there are 3 or 4 other criteria, but for the experiment to work EVERY SINGLE one of those criteria must be a formulaic one where some 3rd party intelligence is not responsible for whether the prayers work.

Because if it is about the intelligent being making the decision, statistics and control groups and sample sizes will in no way discover the truth. You can’t do “control group” to deal with God’s intelligent decisions. For an experiment to be valid all of the things being tested require a repeatable, unintelligent set of laws governing the experiment.

Instead, the truth of the matter is that God will decide if anyone gets healed. Sometimes he’ll perform miracles when no one has prayed, sometimes it’ll be when tons of people have prayed. God only knows what the criteria are for when he heals someone (and I mean “God only knows” not in the flippant sense, but quite literally).

To summarize, Dawkins is trying to set a foundation based on science that is so distorted of a playing field, that no team besides his could ever win. Whether it’s because science requires naturalistic/repeatable theorems for the theorem to even be tested or whether it’s because he wants to use the “preponderance of the evidence” when it suits him, but allow science infinite time and resources when the evidence is to the contrary, he’s rigging a game that only he can win. He refuses to accept any evidence besides scientific ones, even when science has no ability to contradict the evidence presented.

The simple truth is that the scientific method is not the only means of discovery or answering a question and Dawkins is trying to fool you into thinking science is the only valid method around. Don’t fall for Dawkins sham.

27 Responses to “TGD – Why science can never answer the ‘God question’”

  1. Brian M Says:

    First off, I just want to say I really respect you for powering through Dawkin’s book. Not a lot of theists are willing to open their beliefs up to serious scrutiny and debate, so good for you.

    That being said, they’re a lot of things I disagree with here.

    1. Science can’t deal with Intelligence, assumes Simplicity
    – This is partially true; of course science can track trends and make predictions with intelligence to some extent, but it is obviously limited (social sciences). The reason why simple laws are assumed in the natural sciences isn’t because a bunch of scientists got together and decided “thus be it!” Scientists have found again and again that the world is governed by simple, reducible principles that are not violated without reason. The world we live in is very different from a world in which a super powerful deity would often violate the principles of physics, as demonstrated in part by the prayer experiment.

    2. Lessons from the Prayer Experiment
    -One thing must be established; as a Christian you make claims about the physical realm. You say that prayer has an impact on worldly events, or in the case of the prayer experiment, the patient’s well-being. As such you would expect those patients who were prayed over to get well more quickly than those who were not prayed over, right? You brought up intelligence once again in addressing this, but what you fail to realize is this; if the world were governed by simple natural laws rather than an intelligent creator, we would expect their to be no impact of prayer. The fact that miracles aren’t happening left and right (despite claims in your holy book that prayer can “move a mountain”) is a serious blow to the credibility religious doctrine, and I don’t think you’re fully realizing this. How can a miracle (violation of natural laws) not be subject to scientific observation? You do not fully address this question, and it is the key to Dawkin’s argument.

    3. Christians use Evidence, and then ignore it
    -I often here Christians slam science and evidence and reason as things that cannot grasp religious doctrine. But examine your own reasons for belief. Aren’t they based off of what you believe to be a historical document, compilations of eyewitness and secondhand testimony? Isn’t this in fact evidence- something that can be evaluated by science? I doubt you would dismiss archaeological evidence that showed events in the Bible were true (they did happen on earth, in this realm after all…), so why would you dismiss evidence that contradicts the Exodus account, or debunks creation/flood stories?

    While finding Jesus’ DNA is highly unlikely, there are discoveries being made every year in biology, physics, archaeology and chemistry that reinforce the notion that we live in a world governed by simple laws. The “simple laws theory,” if you will, is well supported and documented throughout history- you can see its effects everywhere in your microwave, television set and computer. In the other corner is the “intelligence theory,” which, unless I’m mistaken, is only supported by ancient documents.

    In conclusion, you can only say science and god cannot overlap if you are willing to dismiss the bible and any archaeological data supporting it as irrelevant. Although at that point, I can’t imagine how you could make any claims about the existence of a deity, much less its characteristics! So you see, both sides are just as reliant on evidence to support our claims. :p

  2. Patrick Says:

    Just to agree with Brian’s point, you are for some reason assuming that intelligence is not a reducible phenomenon. There is no reason to assume that, in principle, intelligence can’t be broken down solely because we are currently unable to do so. In fact, science could very well explain intelligence as a complex interaction between many unintelligent processes.

  3. Ken Crawford Says:

    Patrick, yours is easier to address, so you get the first reply:

    Yes, you’re right, it is possible that science will break down what today we consider intelligence in to a combination of many unintelligent processes. That does nothing to minimize that something that is ACTUALLY intelligent, can not be defined by scientific laws. This is the point I’m making.

  4. Ken Crawford Says:

    Brian, you will not hear me slamming actual scientific evidence. I completely concur that science is a valuable resource and its results are to be embraced, not rejected.

    When you will hear me balk is when scientists stretch their actual results and make conclusions beyond what the data suggests.

    And here’s where I think actual results come to the rescue of people of faith. There are thousands of miracles out there that have been investigated by scientists and they come away saying “we can’t explain this”. The shear number of these and that despite continued investigation we are unable to explain these events leads to one of two conclusions:

    1. Our understanding of the simple laws is flawed and either need to be adjusted or new ones need to be added.
    2. Something beyond the simple laws affects the universe.

    In fairness, I don’t have any more evidence that #2 is more accurate than #1, speaking scientifically. However, the opposite is equally true and thus the Christian positions is just as justifiable as the atheist’s, again speaking scientifically.

    My overall thought on your perspective is that you discount modern, unexplained miracles too easily. Miracles did not end with the Biblical age. There are claims of millions of them every year and at least a handful survive scientific inquiry, again, every year. You reject those… or at least appear to. Why is that? It’s just as much evidence as anything else.

    But it’s not going to follow some scientific experiment. We don’t know how prayer works and we know that God’s will is a significant component. So no, I don’t expect that the great prayer experiment is going to show positive correlation. I wouldn’t have expected it if I was told about it before it was completed.

    I’ve often thought that prayer I 99.9% for the person praying and not for what they’re praying for. God will act when he decides it is warranted, not when we do.

  5. Patrick Says:

    What is actually intelligent? It sounds like you’re defining intelligence as something that cannot be explained by scientific laws. What I am saying is that science may be able to reduce our own intelligence to nothing more than a complicated machine.

  6. Brian M Says:

    “In fairness, I don’t have any more evidence that #2 is more accurate than #1, speaking scientifically. However, the opposite is equally true and thus the Christian positions is just as justifiable as the atheist’s, again speaking scientifically.”

    -Except the apposite is not “equally true.” There are many examples of purported miracles being revealed as within the explanatory power of natural laws. For cases that cannot be directly subjected to scientific inquiry, like someone’s personal dream or vision, there exist many plausible natural explanations- certainly more plausible than the notion that a divine being appears on toast and in peoples dreams for ? reason. In contrast, very few cases exist in which scientists cannot even attempt to explain an event- and given the trend of scientific inquiry, even these events will probably be explained in time.

    “We don’t know how prayer works and we know that God’s will is a significant component. So no, I don’t expect that the great prayer experiment is going to show positive correlation. I wouldn’t have expected it if I was told about it before it was completed.”

    “I’ve often thought that prayer I 99.9% for the person praying and not for what they’re praying for. God will act when he decides it is warranted, not when we do.”

    I’m sure you know that these statements appear to contradict the teachings of Jesus and his disciples. So I guess my question is why the discrepancy?

    “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

    Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins'” (Mark 11:22-25).

    “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

  7. Ken Crawford Says:

    Patrick, if you don’t know what intelligence is, use a dictionary. However, I think you know precisely what intelligence is.

    Your argument is that perhaps there is no such thing as human intelligence and I admitted that it’s an outside possibility. My point is quite simply that if something is ACTUALLY intelligent, not that we think it’s intelligent but it’s not because science hasn’t figured it out yet, but ACTUALLY intelligent, meaning science will never find some simple laws to explain it… then it seems pretty logical that science will not be able to simplify it into simply laws.

  8. Ken Crawford Says:

    Brian, you’ll do well to put simple tests to scriptural quoting before suggesting their meaning. It’s blazingly obvious that what you appear to be suggesting those quotes say (that when you pray it will be done on earth) is impossible. You think that we’ve never considered that gee, maybe sometimes our prayers don’t work out the way we want them to? Yet we still know and embrace those passages.

    They don’t mean what you’re suggesting. The first one doesn’t say how it is powerful and effective. The second one is speaking to spiritually receiving it (and it should not be overlooked that it is in the context of forgiveness). And the third one the simple caveat is that if you ask for something that is not in keeping with God’s will it will not be granted.

    Going back to miracles, you lose a great deal of credibility with me by bringing up the “Virgin Mary Toast”. There’s only one of two possibilities, you bring it up to scoff at believers or you’re suggesting that I actually believe a fake like that is real.

    But none of that overturns the reality of 100’s of miracles that defy scientific understanding. Personally, I tend to be a miracle skeptic, but investigation in to some of them amaze me. Sure, there are 100 “Mary Toasts” for every real one, but the real ones are quite literally, miraculous. Everything from Fatima to dozens of medical miracles. You’re either ignorant of the many miracles out there that have received serious scientific scrutiny and still remain miraculous or dismissive of people’s, perhaps 70,000 people’s observations. There’s no other way around that block.

  9. Patrick Says:

    You can’t define intelligence that way! You define true intelligence as something which can not be simplified down to its unintelligent components. Then you say that, because God is truly intelligent, he cannot be tested via the scientific method because truly intelligent things cannot be reduced in such a way by science. That is Circular Reasoning 101.

  10. Brian M Says:

    1. Prayers
    I can only shrug my shoulders at this. This is exactly why I hate getting into debates about scripture: wtvr interpretation = meaning. Perhaps yours is right, perhaps mine is. I wonder why the son of god would take the time to use such powerful imagery if prayer is incapable of even affecting the results of a prayer experiment… Doesn’t sound very “powerful” or “effective,” barring some new meanings of those words I’m unfamiliar with.

    2. Miracles
    Miracles only exist if you’ve already accepted the notion that there is a god who sometimes messes with physics. Otherwise they are just events that lack a complete scientific explanation- although as I pointed out, there are almost always theories, even in the case of Fatima. It’s a leap of logic to conclude that because scientific explanation for x event is not satisfactory, x event was caused by a god- much less your particular god (why not Allah or Vishnu?). You have no reason to conclude that, and I have every reason to conclude that a reasonable explanation will present itself, as it almost always does.

  11. Ken Crawford Says:

    Patrick, it’s not circular reasoning, 101 or otherwise. It’s what we call a linear argument. But since you don’t want to accept the basic every day definition of intelligence, let me quote from

    1. capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.
    2. manifestation of a high mental capacity: He writes with intelligence and wit.
    3. the faculty of understanding.
    4. knowledge of an event, circumstance, etc., received or imparted; news; information.
    5. the gathering or distribution of information, esp. secret information.
    6. Government . (snipped)
    7. interchange of information: They have been maintaining intelligence with foreign agents for years.
    8. Christian Science . a fundamental attribute of god, or infinite Mind.
    9. ( often initial capital letter ) an intelligent being or spirit, esp. an incorporeal one, as an angel.

    This isn’t MY definition, it’s THE definition. It’s the ability to think. By thinking, that means we learn, we change our minds, that we can’t be predicted and simplified down to simple laws. How hard is that to comprehend?

    If it turns out that what us humans do only looks like the ability to think but is in fact just a very complex set of simple laws, something I doubt is the case but I will continue to submit to being an outside possibility, then it will turn out that we are in fact NOT intelligent.

    God, by definition, whether he exists or not, IS intelligent. Anything we find in the universe that is NOT intelligent, is not God.

    To be abundantly clear, the fact that science can never prove or disprove the existence of a cosmic intelligence, is NOT proof that God exists. If I was claiming that, that would be a circular logic. All I’m doing is pointing out the simple truth that science by the very definition of the scientific method, only deals with that which is not intelligent. Since God is by definition intelligent, it can have no input into the subject.

  12. Ken Crawford Says:

    Brian, on the subject of prayers, I’m guessing you come from a protestant background based on what you’ve said. Us Catholics have a much more simplified answer for how to interpret scripture: the authority of the Church. (I know, I know, an entirely separate and HUGE topic.) There are many other passages that put prayer in a different light and the wisdom of the Church helps us synthesize it all.

    As for why God would use such strong language, it’s because He wants us to pray. Is it a mystery how it works? Yes, yes it is. That’s why I don’t expect some simple experiment to prove/disprove it. We don’t even know what the right experiment would look like.

    As for miracles, the inverse of what you said is equally true of course. If you’re convinced that God does not exist, there can be absolutely NO miracles.

    I do concede that miracles do not in and of themselves prove that the Catholic view of God is correct, but any miracle (and I’m defining miracle as a defiance of the ACTUAL natural laws, not our current understanding of them) proves that there’s some intelligence out there that can suspend the natural laws.

    You’re also right that because science is incomplete in its understanding, an event that can not be currently explained by science does not necessarily mean that it is miraculous. That’s why in my very first comment I laid out the two possibilities:

    1. Our understanding of the simple laws is flawed and either need to be adjusted or new ones need to be added.
    2. Something beyond the simple laws affects the universe.

    So I return to my original point… the fact that these things exists calls into question (but does not prove) that there may be more than simple laws out there.

    And again, I reiterate what I said earlier… I think you’re being too dismissive of existing modern miracles. The supposed possible scientific explanations of Fatima are garbage and all of them assume that those 70k people were idiots and can’t tell the difference between a sun spot or a inversion layer or what have you, and the sun flying across the sky. Is it possible there will someday be a scientific explanation? Yes. But as we stand, there’s not.

  13. Patrick Says:

    “It’s the ability to think. By thinking, that means we learn, we change our minds, that we can’t be predicted and simplified down to simple laws. How hard is that to comprehend?”

    No, that does not follow from the definition. How can you go from the capacity to change to irreducibility? A plant has the ability to change its structure (grow) but it can still be broken down to simpler laws. A high-level AI might have the ability to incorporate new behaviors but it can still be broken down to its code. Why would you think a mind would be any different?

  14. Brian M Says:

    1. Prayer
    “As for why God would use such strong language, it’s because He wants us to pray. Is it a mystery how it works? Yes, yes it is. That’s why I don’t expect some simple experiment to prove/disprove it. We don’t even know what the right experiment would look like.”

    Forget the mystery of “how” it works. The scientific experiment was not set up to determine “how,” but whether prayer worked at all. No deviation between the control group and the test group suggests it doesn’t.

    As for this notion that prayer is more for the individual (because I’m betting you’ll bring it up to dismiss the results), the only reason it has a supposedly therapeutic effect is because individuals believe their prayers are actually heard by god who actually considers whether or not to help them, and sometimes does. If we were to accept your characterization of prayer, it would seem its positive effects are the result of false teachings, correct?

    2. “As for miracles, the inverse of what you said is equally true of course. If you’re convinced that God does not exist, there can be absolutely NO miracles.”

    If this is true, it appears that the issue of miracles is “a draw,” so to speak. The existence of miracles (or gaps in human knowledge, as I call them) do not prove god, nor do their nonexistence disprove him. I’m fine with that.

    “and I’m defining miracle as a defiance of the ACTUAL natural laws, not our current understanding of them”

    This is an unworkable definition. No one knows everything about the ACTUAL natural laws, new discoveries about them are being made yearly. We can only address what we know.

    “the fact that these things exists calls into question (but does not prove) that there may be more than simple laws out there.”

    You seem to recognize on some level that gaps in knowledge (“miracles”) are not credible evidence for god anyway. Am I correct in saying that you position is that these gaps merely allow for his possible existence (along with the possible existence of every god of every culture)?

  15. Ken Crawford Says:

    Patrick, I don’t know how else to say it. Either you’re intentionally being coy to make a point or the blazingly obvious is very difficult for you to comprehend.

    Comparing rational though and an intellectual decision making process to that which a plant does is just silly.

    And again, I do not deny the outside possibility that our intelligence is an illusion. But that illusion, that concept that we do have a higher capacity that’s not reducible, that’s still a concept that can be defined. Whether or not we actually have that intelligence is irrelevant. The concept is still a valid one and it’s still what is meant by the term intelligence.

  16. Ken Crawford Says:

    Brian, similar to what I recently commented on the Chapter 7 post in regards to God’s behavior, you’re taking a far to simplistic view of prayer. There’s a lot more to it that just “asking for stuff to happen”. I can’t even remember the last time in prayer I asked for some specific physical act to come about. You’re trying to box prayer into a very small box, one that generally is discouraged by the Catholic Church. They explicitly discourage material prayers. Prayers should be focused on the spiritual.

    As for the definition of a miracle, are you falling into the same mental trap as Patrick? Why is it unworkable? It is in fact the actual definition. Whether it is a convenient definition or an easily testable definition, is not relevant. Something in miraculous if it defies the ACTUAL laws of the universe. If something appears miraculous today, but later we have better understanding and find that it was just a natural event, then what appeared miraculous was in fact not actually miraculous. Conversely, something that appears natural to us today, but as we grow in our understanding of the physical world, could some day be shown to be miraculous. One could even imagine an event that cycled between miraculous and natural numerous times as our understanding of the world evolved. But whether it is in fact miraculous, not whether it appears such, is if it defies the actual laws.

    Whether that makes it easy to test or not is not relevant to it’s definition. I’m not sure if that’s why it is “unworkable” from your view, but I will admit that it makes it more difficult for us to determine what is in fact miraculous.

    Finally, your final paragraph goes astray by calling “gaps” miracles. That’s a bogus definition. Miracles are that which DEFY the laws, so no, you’re not correct in your statement about gaps. It’s you who wants to put miracles in “gaps” because if they actually did defy the laws, it would be devastating to your perspective. These miracles, like Fatima, don’t fit into some area of science where we’re still scratching our heads trying to understand the rudimentary laws that dictate physical behavior.

    No, instead they are in direct opposition, in stark contrast to, what we believe to be a very robust set of physical laws that have proven true over and over and over again. That’s not a “gap”, it’s defiance.

  17. Patrick Says:

    That’s not a coherent concept, however, and that’s the point. There is no reason to conclude that the entire concept of intelligence cannot be broken down into unintelligent components. If human intelligence indeed can be broken down in such a way, then what exactly are you ascribing to God?

  18. Ken Crawford Says:

    Patrick, if human intelligence is indeed fake intelligence, i.e. made up of a bunch of unintelligent components, then what I’m ascribing to God is actual intelligence, that which can not be broken down.

    What part of what I’m saying don’t you understand?

  19. Patrick Says:

    That is precisely what circular reasoning is. You’re defining a term such that, by definition, it is outside the scope of science.

  20. Ken Crawford Says:

    And you’re trying to define the term so that by definition, you’ve reduced God to something that can be measured by science.

    Look, you can call this concept, the concept that a singular being has the ability to think, learn and change one’s mind on a whim what ever you want. Intelligence, Free Will, God, Refulgradetes, Boslwagnes… I don’t care what you call it. But you’re refusing to consider the idea that this conceptual idea is possible. That there could be a unitary entity that can think, learn and change one’s mind on a whim.

    Because if you reduce that activity (think, learn and change one’s mind on a whim) to a bunch of smaller components, then it’s not REALLY thinking or learning or changing one’s mind, is it? It’s just the other things joining together to simulate or give the appearance of that.

    Your strategy is to pretend that this concept is unimaginable. You’re attempting to define everything as so trivial as to be observable by science. You’re holding, as a dogmatic truth (since the evidence for such a claim is non-existent (we are having this conversation after all)), that it must be that everything can be broken down to levels to be observable by science.

    All I’ve tried to establish in this post and subsequent conversation that if such a thing as intelligence (or whatever term you want to use) existed in a divine being, then that thing would be unmeasurable by science.

    In this post, I’m not trying to prove that God exists (that work lies elsewhere), merely that the God I’m referring to, the intelligent, sentient, Free Will having deity that can defy the laws of the universe, can not be measured by science. Why? Because science can not measure that which can change it’s mind on a whim, outside of simple laws.

  21. Patrick Says:

    That’s a very trivial, tautological argument. (Btw, there are very good arguments that free will is an incoherent concept).

  22. Ken Crawford Says:

    I’ve read many an argument about Free Will and none of them, on either side for that matter, are “very good”. It’s a bunch of people feeling around in the dark around a concept that is very difficult to grasp.

    “I think therefore I am” combined with “the fact that we’re having this discussion suggests we have Free Will” are the closest thing to compelling out there and I have no delusions that they are great arguments.

    Finally, you can call it tautological, but it seems to me the insistence by those who are scientist to try to answer the “God question”, when it’s entirely outside their realm, by the very definition of what God is, sometimes you need to say something as simple as “If the team scores a touchdown, they’ll get 6 points.”

  23. Patrick Says:

    Well, yes, I’m very tempted to pull the Wittgenstein card on the whole free will debate. At least, however, it demonstrates that concept is very, very hard to pin down.

    I don’t think scientists insist on trying to answer the God question; I think that media reports try to act as if every discovery is, at its core, concerned with implications for religion. You are still, however, saying that God, by its very definition, is outside the realm of science. Again, this is trivial.

  24. Ken Crawford Says:

    Trivial or not, it needs to be said, because people like Dawkins can’t see it. Remember this post is an outgrowth or reading TGD and he explicitly says that he thinks science has already mostly answered the God question and will finish solving it. So I reject your assertion that it’s the media. Prominent scientific atheists say this sort of thing all the time.

  25. Patrick Says:

    By the way, what you are doing regarding intelligence is this:

  26. Ken Crawford Says:

    Not at all.

    The difference is that the “true Scotsman” is ascribing something to a Scotsman that he need not actually have. A Scotsman is a Scotsman because he was born in that country (or of people from there, whatever). His “liking Haggis” (per the Wikipedia article) is not innate to his definition as a Scotsman and so it’s a logical fallacy because of the false attachment of that characteristic.

    In contrast, God, by definition, is sentient and has Free Will. If there’s some entity out there that isn’t sentient or doesn’t have Free Will, then it’s not God. It’s something else. Thus, it’s an inherent part of God’s definition.

    Admittedly, as I’ve said repeatedly in this thread, this does not prove that there is a God. There may not be an entity out there that is sentient and has Free Will.

    Nevertheless I challenge you to find me a definition of a God that doesn’t include their Free Will and sentience.

  27. Ken Crawford Says:

    BTW, as a point of concession, if you meant my use of the word intelligence as separate from our discussion of God’s nature, you might be right, all though I’m not sure the “true Scotsman” is the right fallacy.

    I probably chose a poor word in using “intelligence”, using my assumed correlation between intelligence, Free Will and sentience, which speaking philosophically need not be joined. That’s why I took the redirect a number of comments ago to disassociate the conversation from the word “intelligence”.

    But I stand fully behind God being sentient and having Free Will, by definition.