Hello Bob, I wonder would you mind elucidating these points a little further which you made here:

Similarly, for me, God is a useful idea.  There are communities of people who study and talk about God.  Just like with energy, there's a whole, vast literature about God, some of it pretty firm, some of it more speculative, a lot of it hard for outsiders to understand without extensive study.

We had recently mentioned opening a separate discussion on what your understanding of God is. I am an ex-Catholic and having grown up in Ireland and lived here for over 40 years I thought I knew all about what a Catholic believed. However I have no understanding of what your definition of God is. I have no problem understanding what you mean when discussing Physics but I am lost when it comes to figuring out what you mean by “God”. Anytime we have asked you to explain you appear to avoid the question by the use of analogies as to how Science works. That might not be as you see it but it does appear that way to me.

 “God is a useful idea” is the same (to my ears) as saying “God is a concept”. An idea is abstract and subjective. The idea of God is an idea. The concept of God is a concept. To me, it does not seem that you belief in a “real” God but rather in the idea of one. This also seems strange to me as you have a very clear understanding of scientific concepts and I cannot “get” how you can and also maintain that “God” is still useful to answer the bigger questions.

I understand all the ontological arguments from Anselm to WL Craig on one hand and Big Bang Cosmology to Quantum Mechanics (which nobody understands :-)) on the other but I don’t want to go down the road of Science vs. Religion until we get to grips with what your actual beliefs are, if that's ok with you.

So would you mind defining what (or who) God is to you and what your basic beliefs are?

Note: anyone can join this discussion but let’s aim to stay focused on the nature of belief.

Views: 1996

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Let me open by stating the obvious. I am an atheist. I hold no beliefs in the existence of any Gods, least of all a personal God that is concerned with my life. You said (above) that among the vast (historic) literature about God that some of it is “pretty firm”. I wonder what that is as it all seems entirely speculative to me. I have never been able to find any evidence - not proof - just simple evidence to give some credence to the idea that God may be more than just a concept.  It is because of this that I find it difficult to understand how other people can maintain a belief in God. I can understand the Deists accepting that “a God” may exist but not the theists when they state that a specific God exists and that they have a “personal relationship” with that God.

Finally Bob, I am entering into this in the spirit of having an interesting philosophical debate. I am sure at the end of it neither of us will budge too much. That is not the point of this discussion. It is to see if we can understand each other’s beliefs or lack of them a little more. The debate itself is the prize. So over to you Bob, if you wish to reply.

 

 

I'm OK with all that. I'm not sure why you would think that God is more than just a concept. All human ideas are just concepts. As I've said before, energy is just a concept. Mathematics is just a few axioms and a highly elaborated set of concepts.

Yet we "believe" in energy and we have the audacity to believe that our human-conceived mathematics can describe the behavior of the universe to high precision and for all time. Even though our understanding of energy has changed radically in just a few hundred years, as has the mathematics we use to describe the universe.

That's all fine, and shouldn't trouble us. It's just humans trying to figure things out.

No. We do not believe in energy. We take our understanding of energy to be reliably accurate and continue to do so until we either improve on that understanding or until something comes along to falsify that understanding. That is not a belief. That is not a concept as you've implied. Happiness is a concept...energy is not and you know the difference.

The fact that the reliability of our understanding of energy has changed so much in the last couple decades does not in any way make energy more of a concept like God but does the absolute opposite. It is evidence of it's non-conceptual nature. Improved reliability of the accuracy of our understanding of something makes it non-conceptual and a non-belief. In 2000 years of theology however not a single written word or speech has changed the reliability of the accuracy of one's understanding of God. God is still the same man-made fictional conceptual belief. And it's hard to imagine how that will change.

We are all humans trying to figure things out. The difference is we try to improve the reliability of the accuracy of our understanding of things. Theologists, woo-meisters and charlatans play around with concepts and beliefs (which itself is not necesarily unconstructive) in a process that leads absolutely nowhere and gains no greater reliability (which is the fatal problem).

No. We do not believe in energy. We take our understanding of energy to be reliably accurate and continue to do so until we either improve on that understanding or until something comes along to falsify that understanding. That is not a belief. That is not a concept as you've implied. Happiness is a concept...energy is not and you know the difference.

Ummm....

Well, yes to the first.  We came up with the idea and concept of energy.  Actually, we came up with a whole bunch of different ideas and concepts of energy from different fields, and eventually we figured out that they were all aspects of the same invariance property.   We went from energy polytheism to energy monotheism.  Like some here do about gods, we could even ask which energy is the "real" energy.

I'm not sure why you think that energy is not a concept however.  It very much is.  In fact it's a remarkably subtle and challenging concept.  It's an invisible, unmeasurable, unprovable thing.

Energy is not a concept. The concept of energy is a concept. Let's talk about beliefs and God instead.

I think we are talking about beliefs.

What do you "believe" energy is, if it is not a concept/abstract idea?

It can't be measured.  It can't be observed.  Its existence can't be proved.

It's just a very useful way of looking at a wide range of phenomena.

I think you've said several times that you are absolutely opposed to "believing" in something whose existence can't be proved.  Maybe I'm wrong about that.   If that is your position, then do you not believe in the existence of energy?

I really am just trying to understand the distinctions you seem to be making, because I find them novel and a bit hard to follow.

I believe that energy exists. I do not believe that God(s) exist. I have ample evidence that Energy exists. I have no evidence (nor do you Bob) that God(s) exist(s).

What is your evidence that energy "exists"?

"It can't be measured.  It can't be observed.  Its existence can't be proved."

I disagree. Electric potential energy can be measured. Thermal energy can be measured. The effects of kinetic energy being transferred to another object can be observed. A calorimeter is a device specifically used to measure energy. We know through Einstein that all matter is energy!

I agree that there is a concept of "energy" philosophically speaking, but when talking about energy, one must began to narrow the scope of the conversation and that brings us to specific types of energy, which can be measured.

Acceleration on the other hand...

Electric potential energy can be measured.

Really?  How would you propose to measure it?

Thermal energy can be measured.

Really?  How would you propose to measure that?

The effects of kinetic energy being transferred to another object can be observed.

No, only the motion of the two objects can be observed.  Transfer of kinetic energy is our explanation for some aspects of that observed behavior.  Simplistically, some invisible unmeasurable "stuff" got moved around.

Where's the "stuff", though?  The objects hit each other and exerted electrostatic forces on each other.  Where's this pile of observable energy goo that got moved about?

A calorimeter is a device specifically used to measure energy.

No, a calorimeter is actually measuring changes in temperature or other observable quantities under certain controlled conditions.  We impute from that the presence or absence of various amounts of heat energy, based on our beliefs about energy, but we are not actually measuring energy.

We know through Einstein that all matter is energy!

But all we actually observe is matter, or the gravitational effects produced by matter.

You've been raised/indoctrinated into a system that has taught you to believe in the "reality" of an invisible, unmeasurable, unprovable thing.  You've adopted that belief without ever really questioning it or exploring it.  

Essentially, people have told you "Energy caused it" in much the way some people say "God did it."

I've been thinking about this all evening. It's starting to blow my mind. o.O

Yes, the universe is truly a strange and interesting place, isn't it?

RSS

Services we love!

We are in love with our Amazon

Book Store!

Gadget Nerd? Check out Giz Gad!

Advertise with ThinkAtheist.com

In need a of a professional web site? Check out the good folks at Clear Space Media

© 2014   Created by umar.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service