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God of the Gaps
Posted: 17 November 2007 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Why am I agnostic and not an atheist?

I think it is because I’m not sure science can explain everything.

This is often called God of the gaps but that isn’t how I see it.

How it seems to me is if the unified theory of everything was found tomorrow and all the theoretical physicists could retire, does that mean we’d have answers to questions like, why are we here?

It doesn’t feel like it to me, I still feel like I could say great you’ve discovered everything there is to know about the universe but what is the reason that it is like that? To which I’d get a shrug of the shoulders. 

Stephen

Oops this may well be in the wrong section, I’m not sure as it’s not about religion as such, please move the post if you think that’s best.

[ Edited: 17 November 2007 09:52 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 17 November 2007 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 08:22 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 17 November 2007 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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One thing that I think might resolve the conflict in my mind would be for the scientific explanation to show how the universe was necessarily here, hence my persistent interest in necessity.

Stephen

[ Edited: 17 November 2007 10:36 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 17 November 2007 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 08:22 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 17 November 2007 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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zarcus - 17 November 2007 10:27 AM

In a way this is partly why I think it’s a mistake to argue that belief in God is a delusion. In the definition for this assertion we have that this belief is contrary to all evidence.

I don’t think it’s a mistake to argue that believing in God is a delusion, because like you said, all the evidence is contrary to this belief.

It’s one thing to believe in the possibility of a god, it’s another to believe in god.

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Posted: 17 November 2007 06:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 08:22 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 17 November 2007 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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ok, yea, I misread your previous post.

But is it not “fanciful” to believe in god? Though we do not have evidence that god does not exist, we also do not have evidence that god does exist. Therefore a belief in god without evidence that god exist could be said to be a fanciful belief. And if this belief is fanciful, then it can be said to be delusional.

Fanciful - not based on fact.
Delusion - A delusion is commonly defined as a fixed false belief and is used in everyday language to describe a belief that is either false, fanciful or derived from deception.

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Posted: 17 November 2007 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 08:23 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 17 November 2007 07:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 08:23 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 18 November 2007 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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zarcus - 17 November 2007 07:28 PM

I say - Given the available evidence I have come to the tentative conclusion that God does not exist.

I’m with ya.

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Posted: 18 November 2007 02:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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morgantj - 18 November 2007 08:44 AM
zarcus - 17 November 2007 07:28 PM

I say - Given the available evidence I have come to the tentative conclusion that God does not exist.

I’m with ya.

I’m with ya too, but I say that all conclusions that anyone makes are tentative as such.  The assertion that there is no god carries no special provision.

Also, the only deities that can not be disproved by physical evidence are the ones that are conceptually unclear.  Whenever the concept of a deity is tangibly defined, there is always physical evidence that contradicts it.  At least this is the case with every sort of god that I have ever come across.  Can anyone think of an exception?

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Posted: 18 November 2007 02:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Gaps are gaps.  To say that they are anything else, such as deities, is to say that they aren’t really gaps.  That’s just absurd.

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Posted: 18 November 2007 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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In Chinese Taoist philosophy, there is the concept of the Tao:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao

The concept of Tao is based upon the understanding that the only constant in the Universe is change (see I Ching, the “Book of Changes”) and that we must understand and be in harmony with this change. The change is a constant flow from non-being into being, potential into actual, yin into yang, female into male. The symbol of the Tao, called the Taijitu, is the yin yang confluently flowing into itself in a circle.

The Tao is the main theme discussed in the Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese scripture attributed to Lao Tsu. This book does not specifically define what the Tao is; it affirms that in the first sentence, “The Tao that can be told of is not an Unvarying Tao” (tr. Waley, modified). Instead, it points to some characteristics of what could be understood as being the Tao. Below are some excerpts from the book.

  * Tao as the origin of things: “Tao begets one; One begets two; Two begets three; Three begets the myriad creatures.” (TTC 42, tr. Lau, modified)
  * Tao as an inexhaustible nothingness: “The Way is like an empty vessel / That yet may be drawn from / Without ever needing to be filled.” (TTC 4, tr. Waley)
  * Tao is omnipotent and infallible: “What Tao plants cannot be plucked, what Tao clasps, cannot slip.” (TTC 54, tr. Waley)

 

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
  The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
  The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
  The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
  Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
  Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
  These two spring from the same source but differ in name;

      this appears as darkness.

  Darkness within darkness.
  The gate to all mystery.

      —(Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, 1972).

God, the creator or God of the Gaps has no meaning in Chinese Taoist philosophy.
The concept of Tao is not a deity. It exists, but is unknowable, like dark energy and
dark matter which makes up 96% the universe. It is “an inexhaustible nothingness”
like vacuum energy. We can only see and measure its manifestations as matter/energy.

So, whether one is an atheist, agnostic, deist, theist or pantheist is a human conception.
The universe exist and that’s that. It is human nature to believe or not believe this and that.

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Posted: 18 November 2007 07:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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kkwan,

I agree that the universe exists independant of our understanding or beliefs, but I don’t see the value of hypothesizing the existence of an unseeable, unknowable nothingness that can only be seen in “its manifestations as matter/energy.” Why add the unknowable nothing behind the knowable? Isn’t knowing the knowable enough?

And you sound like you’re dismissing beliefs as irrelevant human constructs, but then you belief in something utterly unknowable, so how is that different? And if all beliefs are just something people make up, how can we actually know anything real about the universe? I certainly know next to nothing about Taoism, so I’m sure I’m missing a lot behind what you’re saying, but your post seems to dismiss other cultural ways of knowing casually and without thouht, yet I don’t see the substance that justifies the dismissal.

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Posted: 19 November 2007 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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mckenzievmd - 18 November 2007 07:05 PM

kkwan,

I agree that the universe exists independant of our understanding or beliefs, but I don’t see the value of hypothesizing the existence of an unseeable, unknowable nothingness that can only be seen in “its manifestations as matter/energy.” Why add the unknowable nothing behind the knowable? Isn’t knowing the knowable enough?

And you sound like you’re dismissing beliefs as irrelevant human constructs, but then you belief in something utterly unknowable, so how is that different? And if all beliefs are just something people make up, how can we actually know anything real about the universe? I certainly know next to nothing about Taoism, so I’m sure I’m missing a lot behind what you’re saying, but your post seems to dismiss other cultural ways of knowing casually and without thouht, yet I don’t see the substance that justifies the dismissal.

From the wiki on the Tao:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao

A cursory glance at life on Earth or what we know of the Universe as a whole reveals refined relationships of complexity, chaotic order, creativity and sublime organization. The beauty of the unspoiled regions of the world; the harmonious complexity of natural ecosystems, have a ‘just-so’ quality, an integrated wholeness that the ancient Chinese called Tao.

There is a flow and order in the Universe: this is Tao. Tao is never stagnant and is incredibly powerful and keeps things in the Universe balanced and in order. It manifests itself through cycles and transitions: change of seasons, cycle of life, shifts of power, time, and so forth. Tao is the law of Nature.

No, I do not dimiss beliefs as irrelevant human constructs, but is just noting that humans have beliefs based on living and surviving in the middle world between the very small and the very large. These beliefs might not hold at the extremes and are therefore limited. Consider the concept of nothingness in Western philosophy:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nothingness/

This survey starts with nothingness at a global scale and then explores local pockets of nothingness. Let’s begin with a question that Martin Heidegger famously characterized as the most fundamental issue of philosophy.

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Some philosophers conclude ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ is unanswerable. They think the question stumps us by imposing an impossible explanatory demand, namely, Deduce the existence of something without using any existential premises. Logicians should feel no more ashamed of their inability to perform this deduction than geometers should feel ashamed at being unable to square the circle.

Now, consider the scientific world-view on nothingness:

Indeed, the universality of Newton’s law of gravitation seems to require that the whole universe be filled with a subtle substance. Hunger for ether grew as the wave-like features of light became established. A wave must have a medium.

Or must it? As the theoretical roles of the ether increased, physicists began to doubt there could be anything that accomplished such diverse feats. These doubts about the existence of ether were intensified by the emergence of Einstein’s theory of relativity. He presented his theory as a relational account of space; if there were no objects, there would be no space. Space is merely a useful abstraction like your family tree. (There is controversy over whether Einstein’s characterization of his relationism is accurate.)

Even those physicists who wished to retain substantival space broke with the atomist tradition of assigning virtually no properties to the void. They re-assign much of ether’s responsibilities to space itself. Instead of having gravitational forces being propagated through the ether, they suggest that space is bent by mass. To explain how space can be finite and yet unbounded, they characterize space as spherical. When Edwin Hubble discovered that heavenly bodies are traveling away from each other (like sleepy flies resting on an expanding balloon), cosmologists were quick to suggest that space may be expanding. “Expanding into what?” wondered bewildered laymen. “How can space bend?” “How can space have a shape?”

Historians of science wonder whether the ether that was pushed out the front door of physics is returning through the back door under the guise of “space”. Quantum field theory provides especially fertile area for such speculation. Particles are created with the help of energy present in “vacuums”. To say that vacuums have energy and energy is convertible into mass, is to deny that vacuums are empty.Many physicists revel in the discovery that vacuums are far from empty.

Are these physicists using ‘vacuum’ in a new sense? If they are trying to correct laymen, then they need to couch their surprises in sentences using the ordinary sense of ‘vacuum’. Laymen are generally willing to defer to scientists when they are characterizing natural kinds. But vacuums do not seem like natural kinds because they do not seem to be substances — or anything at all. Plato introduced the notion of a natural kind with an analogy featuring a butcher cutting an animal at it joints. There do not appear to be natural boundaries between voids and objects.

Heidegger gives no intelligible answer to ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’. In many turgid passages of Being and Time, Heidegger appears to be sinking deeper with each step “forward”. Logicians try to haul Heidegger out of the quicksand. They distinguish the quantifier ‘no’ from the logical operation of negation. The logicians prise apart senses of ‘is’ and clear up confusions about identity. They carefully compare and contrast ‘exist’ and ordinary predicates. Gradually looking more like philosophers, they pass to more elusive characters such as non-being, negative facts, and so on.

The professionalism of the first few steps in this rescue operation inspire confidence and optimism. Thanks to the remarkable advances in logic during the twentieth century, the rescue party enjoys an impressive grasp of quantifiers, variables, truth-tables, etc. But as they slog deeper toward Heidegger and their white coats get muddy, it becomes increasingly evident that the rescuers are themselves in need of rescue.

After all that mental acrobatics do we know what is nothingness? No, it is unknowable.

[ Edited: 19 November 2007 09:55 AM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 19 November 2007 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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On a minor technical note, please choose bold or another color when selecting parts of text to emphasize. Blue is reserved for official statements from moderators and Admministrators. Thanks

So if nothingness is unknowable, 1) how do you know it exists so you can call it Tao? and 2) why does it matter? That “just-so” quality you attribute to nature is just another human construct, the appreciation for apparent order and function we have as part of how our brains work. It’s fine to give it a name (tao, Law of God, etc), but it doesn’t mean there is any unknowable nothing out there that somehow unifies natural phenomena. I guess I still don’t see the value of the concept.

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