I need some feedback on the assertion that Pantheists have proof of their god because their god is nature. This was brought up by someone on a forum after my response to a Creationist when I said that there is no proof for any gods (and alluded specifically to Abrahamic gods). The poster said that there is no proof for ANTHROPOMORPHIC gods - but then suggests that Pantheists have proof of their god because nature is god to them and nature exists.

Thoughts? Counter-arguments?

Tags: argument, evidence, existence, god, nature, pantheism, pantheists, proof

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It seems to me that nature as God is how most of human history has understood God. People get struck by lightning or wiped out by storms or destroyed by earthquakes or starved by famines; that was all God's doing. It's only in more recent times that we've figured out the mysteries behind those natural events, and understood that trying to anthropomorphizing such events made no sense.

It seems to me that nature as God is how most of human history has understood God. People get struck by lightning or wiped out by storms or destroyed by earthquakes or starved by famines; that was all God's doing.

No, that is theism. Pantheism is that god IS everything that is. It is not a conscious god who makes things for a reason, judges other beings, and so on.

The last thing pantheism is is anthropomorphic. That is theism's bag.

Sure, now it is. I was talking about historical understandings.

"...on the assertion that Pantheists have proof of their god because their god is nature."

Well from the hilltop I'm on, Nature exists ergo their doG exists...now I need a snack.

is.gdCrunchbase: is.gd is a company (Consumer Web), acquired by Memset.

Hi Adam, actually saying God is nature is wildly different from saying God is a pencil. The universe is somewhat larger and more active than a pencil.  The universe did in fact create humanity, as well as the stars, galaxies, planets, trees, etc. and this is provable. The universe encompasses all there is, including humanity - a pencil does not. In short, it makes a tad more sense to ascribe sacredness or divinity to nature than to a pencil.

david garcia has a better question, which is how do you know that nature is God, that is, that nature is sacred or divine? These are entirely human concepts and they are fairly slippery - but creatio ex nihilio, which as far as we know is how the universe came to be in and of itself, via the Big Bang, is certainly something that humanity has, throughout time, equated with gods and considered worthy of being defined as divine, sacred and deserving of worship. The univese is infinitely (as far as we know, that "infinitely" is literal) larger, more powerful, and more complex than humanity - also characteristics generally ascribed to any definition of god or something sacred,, divine and worthy of worship.  How do we know that the universe is these things? Through painstaking collection and analysis of scientific evidence.

My point in all of this is that everyone here is focused on rebutting your debate partner's flawed defense of pantheism.  But there are plenty of better defenses of pantheism.

 

Hi Adam, actually saying God is nature is wildly different from saying God is a pencil. The universe is somewhat larger and more active than a pencil.  The universe did in fact create humanity, as well as the stars, galaxies, planets, trees, etc. and this is provable. The universe encompasses all there is, including humanity - a pencil does not. In short, it makes a tad more sense to ascribe sacredness or divinity to nature than to a pencil.

Creation is an active verb. Sure, life came to be in the universe, but it's going beyond the evidence to imply that the universe is a creator of anything. We can't even say it's a creation. It just is as is anything that happens in it. A fact isn't necessarily an intention.

david garcia has a better question, which is how do you know that nature is God, that is, that nature is sacred or divine? These are entirely human concepts and they are fairly slippery - but creatio ex nihilio, which as far as we know is how the universe came to be in and of itself, via the Big Bang, is certainly something that humanity has, throughout time, equated with gods and considered worthy of being defined as divine, sacred and deserving of worship. The univese is infinitely (as far as we know, that "infinitely" is literal) larger, more powerful, and more complex than humanity - also characteristics generally ascribed to any definition of god or something sacred,, divine and worthy of worship.  How do we know that the universe is these things? Through painstaking collection and analysis of scientific evidence.

The current thinking isn't that the universe came out of nothing. Read up on branes, the multiverse, string theory and such and you'll see that there are theories of how the universe came to be, and while they all are awaiting proof, they all are better than magic, which is what the idea of the universe popping out of nothing basically is. Data will never prove that the universe is worthy of worship or is divine, because those will always be opinions, not facts.

No, a fact isn't intention - but I never said anything about intention. How is intention required for a definition of god?

I'm very familiar with membrans and the multiverse theory - cosmology is a hobby of mine.  However, there is no evidence at present for this theory, though it seems a mathematically sound theory which has numerous proponents.  And just as many detractors.  The Big Bang, on the other hand, has solid evidence.  Until we get some experimentail support for the multiverse, it remains a pretty idea, not a part of our knowledge of nature. At the moment, as uncomfortable as it makes everyone, it does indeed seem that the universe came into being on its own, inexplicably.  Even the multiverse theory does nothing to explain the fundamental question of why there is something rather than nothing. I do not ascribe intention to the universe to bring itself into being, nor to create humanity - but, as I said above, I am not clear on why intention is a pivotal idea here.

The idea of the universe being worthy of worship, or being considered sacred are indeed opinions.  I said that first off and reiterated it when I said these are human concepts.

 

Erin - check out Lawrence Kraus, "Something From Nothing."

No, a fact isn't intention - but I never said anything about intention. How is intention required for a definition of god?

A god with no plan is worthy of worship or even just regard?

I'm very familiar with membrans and the multiverse theory - cosmology is a hobby of mine.  However, there is no evidence at present for this theory, though it seems a mathematically sound theory which has numerous proponents.  And just as many detractors.  The Big Bang, on the other hand, has solid evidence.  Until we get some experimentail support for the multiverse, it remains a pretty idea, not a part of our knowledge of nature. At the moment, as uncomfortable as it makes everyone, it does indeed seem that the universe came into being on its own, inexplicably.  Even the multiverse theory does nothing to explain the fundamental question of why there is something rather than nothing. I do not ascribe intention to the universe to bring itself into being, nor to create humanity - but, as I said above, I am not clear on why intention is a pivotal idea here.

Intention isn't "pivotal" if one isn't talking about a god, but gods are beings who do godly things. Things they intend to do before they do them. Things they, through their intentions, bring about which are worthy of awe.

The idea of the universe being worthy of worship, or being considered sacred are indeed opinions.  I said that first off and reiterated it when I said these are human concepts.

You say "human concepts" in a way that seems a bit dismissive. However, we are human. Who else can you name who has "concepts" other than humans and possibly a very few highly evolved animals on this planet?

Intention isn't "pivotal" if one isn't talking about a god, but gods are beings who do godly things. Things they intend to do before they do them. Things they, through their intentions, bring about which are worthy of awe.

Now you're getting into definitions of god or divinity - and those tend to be extremely subjective.  Pantheism would argue with the idea that something that is divine need be 1) a being and 2) intentional. I find that nature inspires plenty of awe in me without being either.

You say "human concepts" in a way that seems a bit dismissive. However, we are human. Who else can you name who has "concepts" other than humans and possibly a very few highly evolved animals on this planet?

I do not mean in the least to be dismissive - I've just trying to distinguish between concepts that are subject to rational, objective evaluation, and those that are subjective.  Human concepts such as sacredness and divinity are things we made up that have meaning within a human context and nowhere else.  Meaning, nature cares not whether we consider it sacred, but considering nature sacred has huge implications for humanity both in the personal and societal realms.

A god with no plan is worthy of worship or even just regard?

The worth of plans is again a human concept - WE like plans, despite their often limited usefulness. What I love about pantheism is that it requires of me that I move outside of the frame in which we believe that the human way of thinking about things is something real and objective. It challenges me to question fundamental assumptions and look at how things really are (at least as far as our limited understanding allows us to grasp).  For instance, intention and plans have little to do with the natural way of things.  Evolution, for example - we tend to want to make it be a linear progression, but it's not. There is a landscape of all the possible forms of life, and evolution wanders around in that landscape in a way that is, near as we can tell, determined by laws that have to do with chaos, quantum indeterminability and interaction with the environment - in other words, incredibly complex laws that are not subject to predictability. Predictability is a cherished human notion - that if we can just gather enough data all things will be predictable, but the universe tells us that this is not so. Learning to accept this truth of nature is valuable to me.

Intention isn't "pivotal" if one isn't talking about a god, but gods are beings who do godly things. Things they intend to do before they do them. Things they, through their intentions, bring about which are worthy of awe.

Now you're getting into definitions of god or divinity - and those tend to be extremely subjective. Pantheism would argue with the idea that something that is divine need be 1) a being and 2) intentional. I find that nature inspires plenty of awe in me without being either.

Definition: divine
Of, from, or like God or a god.

Without definitions, you can't have a language. We are human. Our ideas are human-oriented. Other beings (you?) may have different words, but I think we know what we mean by "God" even if you don't know we do.

You say "human concepts" in a way that seems a bit dismissive. However, we are human. Who else can you name who has "concepts" other than humans and possibly a very few highly evolved animals on this planet?

I do not mean in the least to be dismissive - I've just trying to distinguish between concepts that are subject to rational, objective evaluation, and those that are subjective. Human concepts such as sacredness and divinity are things we made up that have meaning within a human context and nowhere else. Meaning, nature cares not whether we consider it sacred, but considering nature sacred has huge implications for humanity both in the personal and societal realms.

That is just the sort of verbal/mental chewing gum that theists come up with. A definition is objective to the extent that it can be examined and tested. I think most of us would agree that any definition of a deity has the problem that gods don't exist in the first place, which makes examination and testing not just subjective but moot.

Definition: sacred
1. Connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration: "sacred rites".
2. Religious rather than secular.

What makes nature sacred other than a pre-existing religion? It doesn't start out sacred! Sacredness is a subjective human concept, not an objective fact.

What are the "huge implications for humanity" to which you referred?

A god with no plan is worthy of worship or even just regard?

The worth of plans is again a human concept - WE like plans, despite their often limited usefulness. What I love about pantheism is that it requires of me that I move outside of the frame in which we believe that the human way of thinking about things is something real and objective. It challenges me to question fundamental assumptions and look at how things really are (at least as far as our limited understanding allows us to grasp). For instance, intention and plans have little to do with the natural way of things. Evolution, for example - we tend to want to make it be a linear progression, but it's not. There is a landscape of all the possible forms of life, and evolution wanders around in that landscape in a way that is, near as we can tell, determined by laws that have to do with chaos, quantum indeterminability and interaction with the environment - in other words, incredibly complex laws that are not subject to predictability. Predictability is a cherished human notion - that if we can just gather enough data all things will be predictable, but the universe tells us that this is not so. Learning to accept this truth of nature is valuable to me.

You can't look at things "as they really are" without the intellectual tools we've developed over time. Logic. The various sciences. The unpredictable part of the universe you refer to is not the world in which we live. There are no quantum refrigerators who cease to exist here and pop into existence somewhere near alpha centauri. What expert can you refer me to who has evidence evolution proceeds in a way based on chaos theory, quantum indeterminacy, and so on? That's a new one on me. Evolution has to be linear if only because traits are passed down from parent to progeny. That's the way DNA works..

Challenging assumptions is what science does and has always done. What science doesn't do is treat fantasy or conjecture as fact. If a fantasy or conjecture can't, as a minimum, be formed into a testable hypothesis that fits in with what we already know to be true, it's rightly treated as something other than science. I don't see anything testable in any of your hypotheses.

If something is meaningful to you, that's swell, but being swell doesn't make it knowledge. Knowledge of the scientific sort isn't personal, it's public and shared.

Predictability is key to understanding. Knowing something consists in knowing what to expect the next time around. Repeatability. Expectations being met consistently. Without these all that chaos to which you refer would can't help us understand anything.

Definition: divine Of, from, or like God or a god.

Without definitions, you can't have a language. We are human. Our ideas are human-oriented. Other beings (you?) may have different words, but I think we know what we mean by "God" even if you don't know we do.

I never said you (or this sort of royal "we" you are using - do you speak for all atheists?) don't know what divine means.  This is why in one of my earlier posts I pointed out that what we know of nature through science shares many of the characteristics that have traditionally been associated with gods. Then you argued with the idea that nature created itself - when I pointed out that as far as science can prove that is exactly what happened, you abandoned that line of argument to take up another.  If we are to have any sort of meaningful conversation, it would be helpful if you could recall what we've already covered and work with me to have the discussion follow a logical progression.  Thanks.

What makes nature sacred other than a pre-existing religion? It doesn't start out sacred! Sacredness is a subjective human concept, not an objective fact.

I've said about 3 times that sacredness is a subjective human concept, and yet you seem to be presenting that idea here as if it is countering some argument of mine.  Could you clarify because I find this confusing.

What are the "huge implications for humanity" to which you referred?

As I said earlier, because any idea of divinity or sacredness is something that humans made up, considering or not considering nature sacred has implications solely in terms of humanity's relationship to nature.  To consider nature sacred means one will treat it as sacred, not as resources to be exploited - these two orientations result in profoundly different ways of going about the world.  Treating nature as resources to be exploited results in pollution, mass extinctions and climate change.  Treating nature as sacred could potentially result in a world much friendlier to many more species, including our own since we are in danger of altering our environment to the point of creating much misery for large swaths of humanity.

You can't look at things "as they really are" without the intellectual tools we've developed over time. Logic. The various sciences. The unpredictable part of the universe you refer to is not the world in which we live. There are no quantum refrigerators who cease to exist here and pop into existence somewhere near alpha centauri. What expert can you refer me to who has evidence evolution proceeds in a way based on chaos theory, quantum indeterminacy, and so on? That's a new one on me. Evolution has to be linear if only because traits are passed down from parent to progeny. That's the way DNA works..

Perhaps at this point I should mention that I have a degree in molecular genetics. As for experts who describe how evolution explores a landscape of possible forms, check out Stuart Kaufmann's work (he's written several books) d here are a few others:

Wald, George, 1974.  "Fitness in the Universe: Choices and Necessities." Pages 7-27 in J.  Orr et al, eds., Cosmochemical Evolution and the Origins of Life.  Dordrecht, Netherlands: D.  Reidel.

Maynard Smith, John, and Eors Szathmary, 1995.  The Major Transitions in Evolution.  New York: W.  H.  Freeman.

Eigen, Manfred, 1971.  "Selforganization of Matter and the Evolution of Biological Macromolecules," Die Naturwissenschaften 58:465-523.

Barbosa-Morais, et al., 2012, "The Evolutionary Landscape of Alternative Splicing in Vertebrate Species", Science (this one is a pretty technical discussion of the mechanism of protein-coding genes and how these contribute to species diversification)

I can provide others once you're done looking at these.

I don't see anything testable in any of your hypotheses.

I haven't presented any hypotheses - I distinguished between scientific knowledge and subjective human concepts.  Sacredness and considering nature sacred are subjective human choices. There is no way to prove anything is sacred because "sacred" is not a scientific concept.  You may choose to believe that you dismiss all aspects of human thought which are not scientific - more power to you on that one, sir.

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