Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Beyond the Empirical


Some (many) theists claim that god is beyond scientific/empirical scrutiny, that god, being supernatural, can not be detected by scientific/empirical means. This is usually accompanied by a smug attitude, of course, about how science/empiricism is not the only method for acquiring knowledge.

OK, so here's my very simple question:

What other method do you propose to use to detect/prove/evidence god, how do you go about using it, and how do you know it works?

It's all well and good to complain about science not showing their god, but the theist should put up or shut up and show us their methodology and see how well it works. My guess is that these theists that claim that science doesn't work will either be unable to answer the question, or will try to rely on empirical methods in the end.

23 comments:

Tyler said...

:dons theist coat:

I feel god in my heart. That's empirical.

:removes theist coat, frantically runs to shower off the icky:

Celestial Teapot said...

GCT,
I think you are spot on when you say that theists will ultimately rely on empirical methods for obtaining their evidence for God. It seems that the empirical approach is what the Bible suggests as well.

There seems to be an implicit promise within the Bible that one will find God if one does a kind of experiment. It isn’t the usual experiment that one performs in science. The results of the experiment will not be independently verifiable to the external observer. That means there is not likely to be a high-profile journal article that one can expect from having done the experiment. However, for the person who conducts the experiment, there will be evidence for God.

I would call this an experiment of the heart. There are three reagents needed. The first is a provisional belief that God exists. The second reagent is a provisional belief that sin exists. That last reagent is a provisional belief that the Gospel is true.

These reagents are described in different sections of the Bible (some indicated below). Why do I say “provisional” belief? I say provisional because you can’t make yourself believe something that you just flat out don’t believe. A provisional belief involves getting past your own objections for a moment, and just allowing for the possibility that something you find unbelievable might actually be true. In this case, one has to provisionally believe that there is a God, that this God is good rather than evil, and that He responds to the humble that seek Him out. One has to consider the possibility that maybe there really is something to this notion of sin, and that people have it and God doesn’t. Additionally, as far-fetched as it may seem, maybe this sin is destroying you without you realizing it. The last reagent is perhaps the most difficult reagent to come by, a provisional belief that God created an alternative for you that doesn’t end in your destruction, and was manifested through the death and resurrection of Christ.

What is the evidence for God that one will have once the reagents are brought together and experiment is completed? A careful reading of the methods section says that a specific event will occur. A part of God will become a part of you, and you will be changed as a result.

For me, this last event was intense. It turned my provisional belief into real belief.

So how do I know this empirical method works? I did the experiment. I can only speak for myself when I say that it produced evidence for the existence of God, but I don’t think I’m the only one who has done the experiment and found the same result.

Could someone do the experiment and not get the same result? Clearly there are those who will argue they followed the protocol and got the opposite result (no evidence for God). I would argue that a check on the reagents might be in order. Humility seems to be important to this God.

Here is my supply list for the provisional belief reagents required to do the experiment.
1. A provisional belief in God.
Jeremiah 29:13, Mathew 7:8, Psalm 19 (He is knowable, and will reveal himself to those that seek him humbly)

2. A provisional belief in sin
(Romans 3:9-20) Sin happens

3. A provisional belief in the Gospel
(Isaiah 53:4-5, Romans 5:8, John 14:6) God opens a door for us through Christ

Tyler said...

In short, delusions of grandeur constructed on a foundation of irrational premises.

Empirically speaking.

Eliza 422 said...

3 "reagents" and a specific event will occur? What a load of horse shit! What "event" occurred that turned the provisional to the real? Can you share what it was?

Celestial Teapot said...

Eliza,
GCT’s post was asking for an empirical method to produce evidence for God. This got me wondering if there really is an experimentation process that people use to arrive at their beliefs, and if so, what is it? If someone asked me what the steps were in becoming a Christian, what would I say? The bit about reagents was not meant to be taken literally. I was just trying to take a process that one wouldn’t normally think of as a science experiment and treat it like one since the post was highlighting the lack of scientific evidence for God.

Other Christians may disagree with me about the three provisional beliefs I mentioned. They might argue that I have oversimplified it, but I was mostly thinking in the context of my own experience.

According to scripture, when you accept Christ you receive the Holy Spirit within you. That is a real event, and it does change you. Based on my conversations with other Christians, my experience was not typical. If I told you what happened, would it make my “experiment” any more valid in your eyes? Probably not, right?

Tyler said...

Teapot: GCT’s post was asking for an empirical method to produce evidence for God.

And you methodologically produced evidence of delusions of grandeur built on irrational premises.

Empirically speaking.

ethinethin said...

I was just trying to take a process that one wouldn’t normally think of as a science experiment and treat it like one

You're a regular Kent Hovind.

hmdonald said...

Hi,

I’ve happened upon this blog and thought the discussion interesting. Thanks for taking comments. In this particular post, GCT implies that there must be a way to prove/disprove a god exists using some method observable by humanity today (or maybe some time in the future). How is this an argument? Why would we try to relate science to proving the existing of a superior being? Isn’t the purpose of faith to circumvent many of these concerns? Why shouldn’t a religious person rely on faith as the answer, knowing that they’ll never arrive at an empirical method to test their faith (after all – it’s faith).

The issue I have with Teapot is that there is an assumption that Christian ideals are a way to arrive at an answer. I think this on its own can be flawed, since we’d have to assume that Christianity can actually answer these types of questions, and I’m not sure it can. After all, Judaism (as an example) admits they can’t answer these types of questions fully, and resolve their concerns with millions of pages of Talmudic extrapolation. Christianity and Islam I think would benefit from such a debate, but I digress.

There are two other issues I have with Teapot’s response, but I should say that this question overall doesn’t make sense based on my statement that faith on its own saves itself from scientific scrutiny (which is wildly convenient for those that need it).

1. Provisional belief won’t pass traditional scientific scrutiny because it already presupposes that the tester have a desire to arrive at a particular result, or at the very least recognize that an available result is possible at some level. This makes it hard to test since some may not believe the result, but wish to test to see how accurate the result is. The term “cold fusion” comes to mind – some scientists wanted it to be true so bad, they somehow thought their way into believing they created it, but after peer review, they were discounted. Many scientists surely came to the problem thinking it couldn’t be created, so they had a vested interest in proving the group wrong. Hmm – I think I rambled there, but I’m not a good editor, so I’ll keep going.

2. It’s unfortunate that Teapot’s example specifically called out a need for a provisional belief in sin. Humanity I feel has an innate desire for balance, and so when they seek out things that are completely good, there must be some bar to measure against, and therefore something completely evil must exist. This is a very Christian idea. Many religions outside the religions of Abraham are willing to admit that there may not be absolute good or bad, and previous civilizations even had their benevolent beings generally good, but do bad things to other benevolent beings, etc. I guess you could draw a correlation here to Satan getting casted to hell, but I digress again and hate editing.

Even more than this though, I’m really disappointed in the poorly constructed arguments of Tyler who feels that one-liners are an adequate response behind the veil of electrons that the internet provides. This doesn’t promote dialog – it promotes sound bytes. I guess that’s cool if you watch Fox News or something. Whatever.

Anyway – thanks again for letting me share some thoughts. I hope to contribute here again.

Cheers.

Tyler said...

hmdonald: ... GCT implies that there must be a way to prove/disprove a god exists...

Your screen must be playing tricks on you, because GCT didn't say anything, implicitly or explicitly, about disproving the existence of a god.

hmdonald: Why would we try to relate science to proving the existing of a superior being?

What, exactly, is a "superior being," and why wouldn't we "try to relate science to proving the existing(sic) of" this superior being?

hmdonald: Isn’t the purpose of faith to circumvent many of these concerns? Why shouldn’t a religious person rely on faith as the answer, knowing that they’ll never arrive at an empirical method to test their faith (after all – it’s faith).

These are questions for faithbots who claim science/empirical method supports their faith.

hmdonald: ...faith on its own saves itself from scientific scrutiny (which is wildly convenient for those that need it).

You're preaching to the choir, dude...

hmdonald: Even more than this though, I’m really disappointed in the poorly constructed arguments of Tyler who feels that one-liners are an adequate response behind the veil of electrons that the internet provides.

If you feel I've inadequately and/or poorly addressed what was apparently supposed to pass for an empirical argument for the existence of a god, rather than hypocritically blurting out your own woefully inadequate one liner in response, perhaps you wouldn't mind explaining how what I've said is inadequate and/or poorly constructed.

Cheers.

Celestial Teapot said...

hmdonald,

You are right that provisional belief presupposes that the tester may have a desire to find a particular result, and further, that others will have no way of knowing the accuracy of the result. I’m not trying to argue that this experiment has all the features of a standard science experiment. In science, there is no such thing as an experiment that produces a result that only you alone can observe. Further, this is not an unbiased experiment in any sense.

If you did the experiment and it produced evidence for you that God exists, would you discount it because it was not a result that someone else could observe? I know that some people on this blog would say “Yes. Unless I could show my evidence to another as verifiable proof, it must not be true. I must have had a bad mix of chemicals in my brain at the time. For whatever reason that this occurred, I could have just as easily thought I had proof for invisible unicorns.”

I should also acknowledge that my experiment has another limitation. It is only relevant to the God of the Bible. Presumably one would only do the experiment if one was questioning whether that God exists or not. Having said that, I fully expect someone to comment that “Hey, I did your experiment and guess what? I got invisible unicorns!”

As far as sin goes, I agree that this concept does not appear in various other (Non-Abrahamic) religions. Would the existence of sin be any more believable if all religions embraced it? I still have a lot of problems myself with the idea of sin. Some Christians will give you simplistic answers as to what it is and atheists will usually tell you that it simply does not exist (just bad chemicals in the brain…not all brains, just Christian brains). If it were up to me I would try to come up with some kind of metaphor for sin that makes it of only minor importance. The Holy Spirit inside me doesn’t seem to agree.

Eliza 422 said...

CT said:
"According to scripture, when you accept Christ you receive the Holy Spirit within you. That is a real event, and it does change you. Based on my conversations with other Christians, my experience was not typical. If I told you what happened, would it make my “experiment” any more valid in your eyes? Probably not, right?"

Well you could always give it a shot, it may be the thing to bring me back to the Church. Is it more than just strong feelings?

Tyler said...

Teapot: In science, there is no such thing as an experiment that produces a result that only you alone can observe.

Utterly false. The hallucinatory/delusional results of scientific experiments on the effects of LSD were/are only observable by those who were/are given LSD.

Teapot: If you did the experiment and it produced evidence for you that God exists, would you discount it because it was not a result that someone else could observe?

I would discount it as evidence for a god, for the same reason(s) I discount the hallucinations I've had as evidence for what I hallucinated.

Teapot, speaking as an hallucinate-ee: I must have had a bad mix of chemicals in my brain at the time. For whatever reason that this occurred, I could have just as easily thought I had proof for invisible unicorns.

Sounds like a "good" chemical mix to me.

Teapot: Would the existence of sin be any more believable if all religions embraced it?

Sin, in the theological/religious sense, is an offense against a god, or a violation of said god's rules. Since there's no evidence for a god, then no, the concept of sin (in the theological/religious sense) wouldn't be any more believable.

Teapot: The Holy Spirit inside me doesn’t seem to agree.

Textbook delusion.

Celestial Teapot said...

Eliza,
"Is it more than just strong feelings?"

There were strong feelings (an understatement), but they weren't mine.

Tyler said...

Multiple personalities to boot!

Someone really needs to take their meds.

Celestial Teapot said...

Tyler,

Your comments bring to mind a TV show from the 80’s. There used to be a late-night program called Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in which these two robots that would sit and watch B movies while delivering sarcastic one-liners throughout. I thought it was hilarious, but I never thought of it as a model for actual dialog between people.

I got the sense that the celluloid of this thread might have tangled for a moment, and that Eliza was seriously asking me about my experience concerning the experiment I described above. Sometimes that’s hard to parse that out in an internet environment like this.

Eliza, I have more to say about it if you care to hear it, but it might be better left to an email exchange rather than Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Up to you.

Tyler said...

Your comments bring to mind the long line of people before you who've backed themselves into a corner with irrational arguments and, rather than attempting to logically reconcile their situation, resort to libelous whining about the manner used to point out how they've backed themselves into a corner.

Teapot: ... was seriously asking me about my experience...

It was my experience... they weren't my strong feelings...

Make up your minds, Teapot.

Tyler said...

Tyler said,
"Blah blah blah, yackety schmackety! *slings poop* I'm fmart, I thwear. *sucks thumb* Zzzz"

Enough already. I think Tyler is just GCT's pseudonym for when he gets tired of maturity. It's like the id has been turned loose without the ego or superego. Grow the hell up.

Tyler said...

"Grow the hell up"... from some sniveling, weak minded, libelous, impostor piece of shit who believes in the "adult" equivalent of Santa Claus...

Rich.

Tyler said...

LOL! I think I got his attention. Of course, it will only last till something shiny comes along.

Tyler said...

What the sniveling little hypocrite really said: "Tyler, we know LSD...

No, wait. I can't get out of that one.

Uhm... sin is also defined as...

Shit, I can't get out of that one either.

Hey! Look at the pretty lights!"

Tyler said...

Get original. Something shiny/Pretty lights, same joke.

Tyler said...

"Get original," said the guy peddling a 2000 year old myth... that was based on another 2000 year old myth.

Man, the troll's self loathing is palpable...

GCT said...

I have to leave town unexpectedly for business for over a week, and I come back to this?

Oh, the irony of someone pretending to be Tyler (sockpuppeting) while accusing me of using the handle Tyler (sockpuppeting) in order to be rude and insulting to people. Of course, this is after you guys claim that I'm rude and insulting as GCT, so why would I need the psuedonym? You kind of lose credibility when you can't even keep your story straight.

Of course, taking someone else's name as you have done (fake Tyler) pretty much destroys your credibility, but all is not lost. You could come clean with a new name, make some actual points instead of simply attacking others and we'll deal with your arguments on the merits.

CT,
You've utterly failed to provide a way of finding god in that you already have to have found god (believe in god) in order to reinforce your own beliefs. That, and there's no shortage of true believers that have become atheists because the methods you've put forth simply did not (do not) work. It's all too easy to simply claim that one was not humble enough or didn't fervently believe enough, but those are charges that you can't substantiate.