Monday, August 29, 2016

Dawkins' answer to someone who has experienced God: You hallucinated

Here. 

219 comments:

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Legion of Logic said...

Cal,

This is just out of my curiosity and is a tangent, so feel free to ignore if you wish. The hypothetical prayer study seeks for an active cause/effect relationship - prayer resulting in a desired outcome.

Is there anything you would consider to be possible evidence for a god that is not dependent upon a repeatable and measurable effect in nature, such as prayer correlating to a statistical increase in healing, that seems to lack a suitable natural explanation or defies what is considered to be natural law? In other words, does something have to be a verifiable "miracle" in order to count as evidence for a god, or can you look at something in nature and consider it possible evidence based on probabilities?

SteveK said...

"What if the assigned prayer groups prayed to different gods, to see if only praying to a particular kind of identified god effected results while other kinds of praying to differently-identified gods did not."

They prayed to God?? You can't assume the conclusion from the start. All you can say is the people in each group had different beliefs and they prayed accordingly.

"This would disprove the notion that praying to any god would effect the asked for (naturally inexplicable) results."

No, this would disprove the notion that any kind of belief would effect the desired results. Certain beliefs produce results, others do not. How this all works we are not sure. Still no scientific evidence for God.

"The probability for a kind of god hypothesis would go up."

More correctly referred to as the belief hypothesis. A completely natural hypothesis works and you aren't one inch closer to finding a reason to think God exists.

Steve Lovell said...

I'm struggling to maintain motivation here ... it's good that the discussion has moved on a little. Unfortunately (for me) it's moved to issues I'm simply not very interested in. I'll try to keep reading!

One thing I would say, however, is Cal seems to be assuming something which could be roughly stated as "If the religion R is true, then only the adherents of R get to have their prayers answered". Now a probabilistic version of this might be acceptable and enough to get these further experiments going ... but I think it will likely matter more what one is praying for and how one prays for it (in terms of attitude and the life and behaviour of the one praying) than how one conceives of the God to whom one prays. I think it might be possible to formulate the hypotheses and experiments in such a way as to meaningfully separate out confirmation for the efficacy of different kinds of prayer, but the connection to matters supernatural will still be a further step as SteveK points out.

If it were me, if we had positive results from an initial test into the efficacy of prayer, I'd be casting my net around for the candidate alternative natural mechanisms to explain the results, and then looking for ways to explicitly test for those. As an easy example, if the effects were psychosomatic, it would be important that the person prayed for was aware that they were being prayed for and one could then repeat the experiment in such a way as to control for that. Now it will never be the case that we have ruled out all possible natural explanations, and the argument proceeds in the manner of a so-called "God of the gaps" argument. But as I mentioned earlier, I've never been very convinced that that kind of argument is necessarily wrong headed.

Ilíon said...

"Next to "Rabbit Hole" in the dictionary is a picture of an atheist demanding more "evidence"."

I call that game "Deny And Demand" -- simply deny the adequacy of any evidence presented and demand more: and "theists" constantly fall for it.

"... were it not for a genuine concern for the health of their souls, they wouldn't deserve the time of day. There is no profit in engaging a person who utterly refuses to listen to reason."

I would say, they've chosen death: let them stay dead (*). However, an internet discussion board or commbox is a different context: it's not a single locality, and the people *reading* it are not necessarily restricted to the willful zombies.


(*) on the principle of "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet."

SteveK said...

Steve Lovell,
"Now it will never be the case that we have ruled out all possible natural explanations, and the argument proceeds in the manner of a so-called "God of the gaps" argument."

Yes! My key point since the very beginning of this discussion. That gap must be filled with knowledge from outside the realm of science proper if you are ever going to get to a conclusion that includes God. It's not *necessarily* a logical fallacy or wrong-headed to bring in this outside information to help you come to a reasonable conclusion. We do it all the time.

bmiller said...

@Cal

As an observer, I tried to restate what I saw as the main complaint of the others concerning your proposed experiment.

"Said another way, are you suggesting that a group of Muslims who seem to have effected an amputation regeneration (per my scenario above) would instantly persuade you about everything a Muslim says about Allah? "

Hey, it's your proposed experiment not mine. I haven't suggested anything and I'm only trying to gather evidence to reach a conclusion. Your question here really needs to be asked of your experiment don't you think? If there is no way for the experiment to be conclusive in the case of amputation generation and the miraculous power of prayer, then its probably not a useful experiment.

Regarding other questions:

I'm only asking you about your hypothesis.
It's your hypothesis and your experiment, so I'll let you tell me how you would prefer to reach a conclusion.

Unknown said...

me: ""Said another way, are you suggesting that a group of Muslims who seem to have effected an amputation regeneration (per my scenario above) would instantly persuade you about everything a Muslim says about Allah? "
bmiller: "Hey, it's your proposed experiment not mine."

Why won't you answer the question?

I brought up the kind of verifiable evidence it would take for me to change my mind about miracles occurring. What kind of verifiable evidence would you require to change your mind about your beliefs?

bmiller: "It's your hypothesis and your experiment, so I'll let you tell me how you would prefer to reach a conclusion."

I'm not explaining myself to talk to myself. If you have a sincere question about my thought process, one that you don't understand or agree with, and it's interesting for me to try and explain it to you, I will usually respond to that.





Legion of Logic said...

"I brought up the kind of verifiable evidence it would take for me to change my mind about miracles occurring. What kind of verifiable evidence would you require to change your mind about your beliefs?"

Does something have to be "miraculous" in order to qualify as evidence for a god? Or can a natural thing be counted based on probabilities?

B. Prokop said...

I have numerous times in the past laid my cards on the table as to what would cause me to change my beliefs. Namely, show me the verifiable remains of an unresurrected Jesus, and I would drop Christianity like a hot potato. (No Resurrection - no Christianity!) But even in that case, I would still look for another religion to adhere to (most likely Hinduism). I don't think anything could ever convince me that atheism is true. It's like asking me what would it take for me to believe that 2 plus 2 equals 5. It just doesn't.

I have yet to see an atheist similarly show what would convince them they are in error.

Unknown said...

Prokop: "Namely, show me the verifiable remains of an unresurrected Jesus, and I would drop Christianity like a hot potato."

Nevermind that what you ask for is impossible.

Sigh.

Unknown said...

Legion: "Does something have to be "miraculous" in order to qualify as evidence for a god? Or can a natural thing be counted based on probabilities?"

Sorry, Legion -- I'm just not sure what you mean here. I think if you propose an example of what you're thinking that might help me.

B. Prokop said...

"Nevermind that what you ask for is impossible."

It's impossible like showing that St. Louis is west of San Francisco - 'cause it ain't!

It's impossible like saying we never landed on the Moon - because we did!

It's impossible because He rose from the dead - the tomb is empty - He lives!

Legion of Logic said...

"Sorry, Legion -- I'm just not sure what you mean here. I think if you propose an example of what you're thinking that might help me."

Well for example, the types of things atheists typically respond with when asked what evidence for a god might look like include (from direct experience) regrown limbs, mind reading, string theory in the Bible as a prophecy, the stars aligning to say "I am God" in every language simultaneously, a dead person with brain removed coming back to life, etc. Basically, things that if they occurred would all qualify as stunning and verifiable "miracles" - things that should be impossible by natural means yet occurred anyway.

What I'm wondering is, do you believe anything that does not fit the definition of a miracle could ever be considered evidence for a god based upon the probabilities of that thing or phenomenon existing with or without said god. Example: could the existence of sentient, self-aware life be considered possible evidence of a god? Regardless of whether a natural process is the means by which such life arises, based upon the likelihood of the universe randomly having properties allowing life vs the universe intentionally having those properties, would it be valid in your mind to consider that possible evidence, or does something have to violate the known natural order to be possible evidence?

Unknown said...

Legion: "What I'm wondering is, do you believe anything that does not fit the definition of a miracle could ever be considered evidence for a god based upon the probabilities of that thing or phenomenon existing with or without said god."

I think such talk is meaningless, and that's because there's no way to establish the probabilities involved. I'm not a fan of arguments whose premises rest on intuitions that can't be tested -- they always seem to lead to the conclusion the person who puts them forward would like, and there's just no way to determine if they're correct or not.

Legion: "Example: could the existence of sentient, self-aware life be considered possible evidence of a god?"

I don't see how, and that's because in order for us to demonstrate a creator / created relationship we have to know something about what kind of effects the creator has on its creation. We could surmise a beaver from a dam, for instance, because we know something about how animals interact with their environment. With a god, we have no such references, so there's nothing there to work with.

Legion: "Regardless of whether a natural process is the means by which such life arises, based upon the likelihood of the universe randomly having properties allowing life vs the universe intentionally having those properties, would it be valid in your mind to consider that possible evidence, or does something have to violate the known natural order to be possible evidence."

I've always thought that the anthropic argument is genuinely terrible.

bmiller said...

@Cal

Guess I misunderstood. I was expecting more or less a yes or no answer to this question I asked:

me:"It appears from your answer that even if they all tested positive for high probability for the "God" hypothesis, you would still seek more "evidence". Am I right?"

When you replied, I didn't see that definitive yes or no answer. It did seem to be yes though and that that you were asking rhetorically whether any sensible person would conclude from the experiment that a miracle had happened. I think if you read my answers in that way it will make sense to you.

Since it seems you're interested in what I believe, then yes, I believe that miracles do occur and can occur due to prayer. But the idea of setting up a double blind scientific experiment to test it is wrong-headed in more than one way.

First, miracles by definition are considered the suspension of the natural course of things whereas science is the study of the natural course of things. To me it looks like not only using the wrong tool to do a job, but the exact tool one should not use.

Second, for me, it assumes a false idea of how God (or the invisible being as you first stated) and prayer work, at least from my perspective. If God wills a miracle it will happen, but I don't presume to know the will of God in any specific circumstance.

There are most likely things that would make me change my beliefs about God, but it would be more about how God works, than whether he exists or not, at least my understanding of God. Existence itself would have to cease.

I also don't think there is any scientific experiment that would convince you. If I were in your shoes, they wouldn't convince me.

Unknown said...

bmiller: "When you replied, I didn't see that definitive yes or no answer. It did seem to be yes though and that that you were asking rhetorically whether any sensible person would conclude from the experiment that a miracle had happened. I think if you read my answers in that way it will make sense to you."

I explained why. I truly don't know how to answer a question where something "tested positive for high probability."

It's like asking, is someone pregnant if they there is a high probability they had a positive pregnancy test.

If you can clarify your question, I think I could answer it, but honestly I don't know what to do with a question that includes the wording ""tested positive for high probability."

bmiller said...

@Cal

Cal:"If you can clarify your question, I think I could answer it, but honestly I don't know what to do with a question that includes the wording ""tested positive for high probability."

I accept your assessment that this is a bad phrase.

However, if my daughter told me ~"there is a high probability she had a positive pregnancy test" I would be alarmed :-O

Like I said, I don't know why you even mentioned that this type of test would make you change your mind. I will not press you further for an answer.

Unknown said...

bmiller: "I don't know why you even mentioned that this type of test would make you change your mind. I will not press you further for an answer."

Okay, but I don't think I know what you mean by my saying, " this type of test would make you change your mind." What kind of test are you referring to, and change my mind about what exactly?

If it helps, it seems like you're talking about what psychologists used to call a "gestalt switch", whereas I am talking about degrees of belief. I suspect that something like that might be contributing to the confusion.

SteveK said...

Degrees of belief??

Do you mean to say that your belief that God exists is very small in degree, but is there nonetheless?

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