Note about civility: we are all, or should be, ladies and gentlemen here. Non-gentlemanly comments will henceforth be censored. Arguments, however, are more than welcome. —Briggs
There have been some recent posts which I believe have reached unwarranted conclusions.
First though, space is short here so I must resort to shortcuts. I don’t wish to get into arguments over definitions. It’s the concepts and not the words used to describe them that is important. The following are provided to move the discussion along:
- Reality: that outside of ourselves. If you are inclined to believe reality is only in your mind then posting arguments here seems to put you in the curious position of convincing yourself to come around to your own point of view. Sounds like a family fight which should remain private. Concepts are real in the sense that they can exist in other minds as well as our own. However, I will limit real to mean outside of our collective minds.
- Proof: Suffice it that, here, I mainly use the word to mean existing in reality.
- Validity: proof of reality.
Let’s consider mathematical proofs. Theorems are proved in math through logical deduction. That is, they are shown to be logically true and can be traced back to the starting assumptions (axioms). Mathematical theorems exist only in the framework of mathematics. They can be used as simplifications in other problems by analogy. This doesn’t mean they exist in reality. Confusing these simplifications with reality can lead to problems such as over-confidence.
The scientific method sidesteps the concept of proof in the mathematical sense. This doesn’t mean science doesn’t employ logical deduction. Scientific results are not logical deductions. Science relies on consistency with observations: information that comes to us from outside of ourselves. Observations are generally taken as fact. In science, the only thing that can be proven with certainty is inconsistency with observations. Theories that fail to predict future results are in need of modification and are rejected as is. Science provides ideas which are testable, that is, verifiable against observation. In short, science comes up with ideas that seem to work and, whenever possible, eliminates those that don’t.
But, you might ask, what about theories that can neither be proven nor disproven to exist in reality? There are a number of these — the Theories of Everything, for example. Presumably, their status is temporary and hopefully they can be tested in the future. Until then, their validity remains an open question.
There are those theories that seem to be forever excluded from testing for validity, for example, the existence or non-existence of God. It’s been mentioned that God cannot be sensed. This precludes using any observation to test whether theism should be preferred over atheism.
Lately, we have seen claims that God has been “proven”. Well, in the logical deduction sense, yes indeed.
Logical consistency is expected for otherwise it would constitute disproof. I’m fairly certain atheism is also logically consistent given its assumptions. If not then why hasn’t its disproof been widely circulated?
The deductive proof is insufficient when it comes to the question: is it real? It accomplished nothing beyond non-elimination toward a validity test. In the common person’s mind, “proved the existence of God” means “proved God is real.” In this case, at least, the deductive proof is the analog of p-value. It provides a misleading answer.
Has God been “proven” by logical argument? My take: in the sense of “shown to be real”, not at all — to claim otherwise is unwarranted. At best what can be said is that the concept of God is not illogical. On the other hand, the concept of no God is not illogical either.
As always, reasonably and well written guest editorials are welcome.