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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why I Don't Need to Prove God Exists

I've been challenged to prove that God exists. I won't try. It's not because I believe God doesn't exist. I very much believe that God exists, that the Bible reveals him, that Jesus is his son, and that God, through the Spirit, dwells with me.

But I can't prove it. I have experience, but no evidence.

There are many, many arguments for the existence of God. I've studied most of them. I like some of them. But I don't really want to use any of them.

Here's why:

  • Incontrovertible truth is based on observation. 
  • God cannot be observed, therefore God cannot be proved incontrovertibly. 
  • Therefore any attempt to prove God's existence will be rejected by those who are predisposed to reject the existence of the unobserved. 
  • So, proofs for the existence of God are mental exercise that reinforces beliefs already held by those already predisposed to believe in God. 
To put it another way, I don't need to prove God exists to people who already believe he exists; I can't prove God exists to those who refuse to believe that God exists. 

Working on proofs for the existence of God may help to strengthen the faith of believers, but it doesn't do anything to affect the non-believer. 

Those who flatly deny the existence of God do so (most often) from the perspective of observation. God cannot be observed, therefore God must not exist (or God's existence is meaningless to the observer).

This, however, presupposes the reliability of the observer and the ability of that observer to reason from his or her observation to the reality of the observed world. The existence of synesthetes shows that our observation isn't tied to the reality of the world we observe. 

Synesthesia is the condition where senses are crossed in some way. Synesthetes may see color when they hear a sound or they might perceive numbers as always having the same shape or connect smells with a touch-like feeling. The synesthete's brain crosses signals from the different senses and conflates the information. The letter 'A' isn't actually red, but a synesthete will perceive it that way. 

The existence of synesthesia goes to prove that the human brain doesn't deal with reality, but the filtered version of reality interpreted by the senses. Your observation may or may not relate to reality. 

Because of this, a strictly empirical worldview (one that rejects any a priori assumptions) is functionally impossible since the most basic assumption of Empiricism is that observation provides a reliable window into the world.

So, me proving that God exists is akin to proving that the world exists. I can't do it, but I can live like it's true. 

3 comments:

Jake Shore said...

Well said. I think too many Christians think they need to be prepared to do this, or feel like it's a weakness if the can't, even though 99% of the time, it's a pointless debate. Most people don't ask you to prove God exists because they're ready to believe, and like you say, it's really not nearly effective as the testimony of how you or you community to live.

Will Conley said...

Excellent, James. As a non-Christian, I do believe in the existence of a "God." (I am intentionally using the article "a" to denote non-specificity or interchangeability, an uppercase "G" to signify a unified universal consciousness, and quotation marks to emphasize that "God" is a word I use out of convenience.)

I perceive the concept of God as a universal consciousness, and consciousness is, to me, the crux of the matter.

I think I can prove God exists, under that definition. But I need to start smaller. First I need to prove that consciousness exists, and in the process describe what it is.

But before I can do that, let's explore where consciousness can live. Most folks would agree that consciousness can exist in a human or animal brain. It is the orchestra of neurons communicating BETWEEN each other according to simple rules giving rise to complex emergent properties such as image or tone or feel or automobile factories.

But it can also exist outside of and BETWEEN separate organisms, and that's where I'm likely to find more disagreement. All I have to do, however, is direct attention to the complex subterranean ant colony replete with a fully functioning HVAC system, viewable at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozkBd2p2piU.

It becomes clear that there is complex "consciousness" (organization? artistry? creativity? probelm solving?) on some level, and it cannot be OBSERVED (there's that word) anywhere in the organisms themselves. It can only be seen in its effects -- an argument which, if I am correct, is often used to prove the existence of God.

Consciousness exists between organisms. That can be proved. I'm not proving it now, but it can be done, I think.

I would then take it up one level to the Gaya concept -- the idea that Planet Earth is conscious, or functions according to rules indiscernible from those that govern consciousness.

Then I would take it to the cosmic level.

Then God.

Not that everyone would buy it. It satisfies me, though.

James T Wood said...

I've never come across that argument before, Will, but I kind of like it.

I don't think you have any trouble proving that inter-organism consciousness exists with your ant hill example (or a bee hive or a school of fish). From there one can extrapolate that humans function in a similar manner (group-think is a recognized phenomenon).

So, would you say that "God" is the greater-sum of the parts of the universe?

Does "God" have a separate consciousness or is it contingent upon the group working together?