• TheMadFool
    7.6k
    It's been quite some time since I've seen an argument regarding Divine Simplicity. Although what I'm about to say will turn on the word "simplicity", I must clarify that the simplicity I'm going to discuss is god's intelligence. I'm going to try and prove that god is a simpleton, a simpleton herein meaning a being that far from being a genius is actually possessed of only child-like intelligence, even apish I might add.

    Life, in many ways, is the crowning glory of the being, if such a being exists, that created this universe. It remains unexplained despite the breadth and depth of current scientific knowledge which, for some, begs the interpretation that it (life) is the work of a genius, a mind possessed of vast, unimaginable intelligence. Such a view jibes with the standard notion of god as an omniscient being.

    The scientific theory of evolution states that the fundamental principle all life obeys is trial and error i.e. genetic mutations are randomly initiated and those that confer a survival advantage are selected for in what is but a dance of chance.

    Trial and error is a bona fide problem solving technique as attested here but it's a method that according to the article is "Nevertheless, this method is often used by people who have little knowledge in the problem area" i.e. it doesn't display understanding as much as other more advanced problem solving techniques do.

    So, if god exists and he's the one behind all creation in general, evolution in particular, and if his preferred method is trial and error, it must be that good is not a genius who understands the ins and outs of creation and life but is actually a simpleton as herein defined.

    Comments...
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    620
    I'm going to try and prove that god is a simpletonTheMadFool

    ... and I thank you. I simply don't have the time or skills to be a god. ;)

    (sorry the joke, but it was simply set up too well, please go back to the real conversation. I like to read.)
  • Hippyhead
    727
    I must clarify that the simplicity I'm going to discuss is god's intelligence.TheMadFool

    A few thoughts in reply, hopefully relevant...

    1) I like a theory that space is God, that everything arises from nothing, for reasons unknown. In one way of looking at it, nothing is about as simple as it gets.

    2) I'm quite skeptical of discussing God's intelligence.

    First, that presumes that God is a "thing" which would thus have properties, a phenomena divided from other phenomena. I prefer a "God as Everything" theory, which suggests God is not a thing, but a container of all things. In this theory, God would not have a particular set of properties, but would contain all properties. We can see this in the Jehovah character for example, who seems quite contradictory as a result.

    Next, our understanding of intelligence is derived from an extremely small sample of reality, life on a single planet in one of billions of galaxies. I think we're making the usual human mistake of trying to map this very local phenomena on to the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere, probably a spectacular logic failure.

    To me, the most promising method of investigating God theories is to shift the focus to that which is generating the theories, thought. We are observing all of reality through the medium of thought, so whatever the properties of thought may be will have a profound influence upon the observation. As example...

    Thought operates by dividing the real world in to conceptual objects. So for example, we see the noun as the building block of language. Because we are not only using thought, but are ourselves made of thought, we assume reality is made up of things (ie. divisions), and thus assume God is one of those things. And then from there we attempt to define the God thing, assigning it particular properties as we would any thing.

    My guess is that the divisions we perceive everywhere we look are a property of the tool being used to make the observation, not a property of what is being observed. Almost all of theology may be built upon such an error.
  • Coben
    1.6k
    So, if I understand your argument, the idea is that if God created the universe, then he is simple because the method he chose for the unfolding of life forms (not the universe in general) is trial and error and this is simple. But then don't we fairly complicated creatures also use simple heuristics in all sorts of creating? And to create a universe that allows for unbelievably complex diversity (at least on earth) in forms, is no mean feat at least from our perspective. It is almost as if God should have had a more complicated set of processes, but since trial and error manages to be unbelievable creative when passed through DNA and selection, that it ends up being really quite effective. Is the universe simple because simple formulas like E=MC2 are in the background? I don't know. Elegance and simplicity can often go hand in hand. Simplicity couples with stochastic processes can create all sorts of wonders - though of course this is a subjective evaluation, but wonders to me.
  • Olivier5
    834
    if god exists and he's the one behind all creation in general, evolution in particular, and if his preferred method is trial and error, it must be that god is not a genius who understands the ins and outs of creation and life but is actually a simpleton as herein defined.TheMadFool
    Also, it took Him millions of years to figure it out... He can't be that bright.
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    Also, it took Him millions of years to figure it out... He can't be that bright.Olivier5

    I simply don't have the time or skills to be a godMayor of Simpleton
    Read above

    nothing is about as simple as it gets.Hippyhead

    :ok: I wonder though, if nothing is simple, why do people have difficulty discussing it?

    I'm quite skeptical of discussing God's intelligenceHippyhead

    :ok:

    First, that presumes that God is a "thing" which would thus have properties, a phenomena divided from other phenomena.Hippyhead

    :ok:

    Next, our understanding of intelligence is derived from an extremely small sample of reality, life on a single planet in one of billions of galaxies.Hippyhead

    :ok:

    Your issue is with what can be broadly termed as anthropomorphism. Indeed, once we begin to look beyond our planet and our solar system, we must think twice before we bring our earth-centric perspective to bear on matters that are galactic in nature.

    Nevertheless, we can't hold our anthropomorphism or more accurately earth-centrism against us if only for the reason that that's all we have to go on. Plus we need a very good reason to believe things could be radically different in other parts of the universe, a reason that seems hard to come up with. All the evidence seems to suggest that physics, chemistry, ergo, biology, should be the same everywhere in the universe. I say this because I heard that the most common elements in the universe are carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen - the fundamental constituents of life on earth. Ergo, isn't it likely that life elsewhere in the universe will evolve in a manner similar to that on earth?

    Coming to the matter of god's intelligence, notwithstanding the fact that it counts as anthropomorphism at some level, I only ask that you embrace the inherent anthroporphism, be human, be an earthling, be who you are instead of trying to view the issue from a galactic perspective, a perspective of which you haven't the slightest idea.

    So, if I understand your argument, the idea is that if God created the universe, then he is simple because the method he chose for the unfolding of life forms (not the universe in general) is trial and error and this is simple. But then don't we fairly complicated creatures also use simple heuristics in all sorts of creating? And to create a universe that allows for unbelievably complex diversity (at least on earth) in forms, is no mean feat at least from our perspective. It is almost as if God should have had a more complicated set of processes, but since trial and error manages to be unbelievable creative when passed through DNA and selection, that it ends up being really quite effective. Is the universe simple because simple formulas like E=MC2 are in the background? I don't know. Elegance and simplicity can often go hand in hand. Simplicity couples with stochastic processes can create all sorts of wonders - though of course this is a subjective evaluation, but wonders to me.Coben

    You made a good point. What of the so-called laws of nature? Don't they evidence a prodigious intellect? Yet, taking into account the fact that life is the pièce de résistance of god's creation, it's reliance on a method (trial and error) that's so simple that even animals and toddlers use it doesn't jibe with a conception of god as a supreme genius capable of creating universes.
  • Jack Cummins
    243

    As mortals, we cannot understand the God force. If anything, seeing it as a source, is one way of seeing the divine. I find Fritjof Capra's book God and the New Physics very helpful.
    As far as the 'simpleton' part, the problem may really be about how we expect God to behave, especially if we perceive God as wholly God. What about the shadow side of God? This matter is dealt with in depth in Jung's book Answer to Job.
  • Coben
    1.6k
    You made a good point. What of the so-called laws of nature? Don't they evidence a prodigious intellect? Yet, taking into account the fact that life is the pièce de résistance of god's creation, it's reliance on a method (trial and error) that's so simple that even animals and toddlers use it doesn't jibe with a conception of god as a supreme genius capable of creating universes.TheMadFool
    According to some theists it is the pièce de résistance of god's creation, mainly the Abrahamists, others not so much. But why does the magnificance of what we look at - the vast array of life on the planet - become less if a simple set of heuristics (and some rather incredibly complicated molecules) are what led to it. IOW one could argue that only a genius could find a simple process that would lead to such diversity. Whereas some lesser deity would have to have many more processes and complicated interventions and so on.

    IOW if two extremely talented inventors (engineers) came to a company, each with a device that could do something very useful and complicated and one inventor had a very elegant simple set of programming, say, and the other had extremely complicated programming in this device, we would like think the one who managed to create a device with the same functions off a simpler set of processes is the better inventor, the greater genius.

    If creation is wondrous, I don't see how having a simpler set of processes that led to it, takes anything away from the wonder of it, nor from the genius of the maker.

    And just to repeat: to get something to 'learn' via trial and error what nature has learned is incredible - note I am not making a case for God, just noticing what an incredible result we have. And DNA is an incredible molecule and not a simple one. And trial and error led to the creation of minds that use more than trial and error, so if this was made by a deity, that deity chose a simple elegant solution to create something incredible. That to me is a sign of skill and it would be seen as a skill in science, business, art, whereever. The most skilled workers come up with elegant simple solutions if they can. If the process itself then leads to whatever the goal is, the simplicity is not leading to any loss, and it is likely easier and cheaper, but at root it shows mastery.

    If I invent a robot that I have to constantly tell what to do, it is less effective than one that I can just set in motion once and it learns and does what I want it to. The former robot/supervisor heuristic is more complicated, but less elegant and a sing of a poorer product.
  • Hippyhead
    727
    I wonder though, if nothing is simple, why do people have difficulty discussing it?TheMadFool

    I've been trying to explain that. 1) It's because evolution has trained our minds to focus on things, the predator, the potato. 2) It's because thought operates by dividing reality in to conceptual parts. Nothing is not a part, nothing has no parts, it can't be subdivided, categorized and labeled etc. So our mind doesn't know what to do with it.

    Indeed, once we begin to look beyond our planet and our solar system, we must think twice before we bring our earth-centric perspective to bear on matters that are galactic in nature.TheMadFool

    Ok, but the God question is beyond galactic. It's a collection of theories about the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere. So it's kind of absurd to try to take a very local concept like intelligence, which is useful for comparing humans to donkeys, and map it on to phenomena the scale of gods.

    However, the very absurdity of such an operation is useful in that it reveals how hopelessly flawed the God debate is. And, how hopelessly inept are those considered expert on the subject. When this is seen and faced, the entire structure of the God conversation including all arguments for and against etc collapses in to a pile of pointless dung. And then we have nothing. Which as it turns out, is perhaps the best representation of reality we can get.

    I only ask that you embrace the inherent anthroporphism, be human, be an earthling, be who you are instead of trying to view the issue from a galactic perspective, a perspective of which you haven't the slightest idea.TheMadFool

    I'll pass on the anthropomorphism, and have already agreed I haven't the slightest idea. Not having the slightest idea, and knowing that to be true, is not a defeat. Once all the fantasy knowings are off the table that creates an opportunity to approach such issues with an open quiet mind, a psychological state which is more like reality than any philosophy. This should be appealing to those, like many atheists for example, who want their perspectives to be grounded in observation of reality. If one is trying to understand reality, and reality is overwhelmingly nothing....

    Ergo, isn't it likely that life elsewhere in the universe will evolve in a manner similar to that on earth?TheMadFool

    I have no idea. And anyway, the God concept typically has nothing to do with species on other planets.
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    As mortals, we cannot understand the God force. If anything, seeing it as a source, is one way of seeing the divine. I find Fritjof Capra's book God and the New Physics very helpful.
    As far as the 'simpleton' part, the problem may really be about how we expect God to behave, especially if we perceive God as wholly God. What about the shadow side of God? This matter is dealt with in depth in Jung's book Answer to Job.
    Jack Cummins

    There are two parts to this:

    1. Human-level understanding, something I've tried to do in my OP

    2. God-level understanding, which is, in likelihood, as you seem to be suggesting, something we won't be able to achieve

    IOW one could argue that only a genius could find a simpleprocess that would lead to such diversityCoben

    :ok: It's something that hasn't escaped my notice but be mindful that you used the word "simple" and substituted "diversity" for the word most often used viz. "complexity" when people describe the universe. Are you trying to avoid a contradiction here?

    I guess it depends on whether the complexity evident in the universe is part of god's plan. If it is then he truly is a being of incommensurable intelligence but if it isn't then so much for god's intelligence. A clue to decide which of these possibilities is true can be found in the many design flaws our bodies have.

    And trial and error led to the creation of minds that use more than trial and errorCoben

    So, you agree then that there are better ways to create universes.

    By the way, a trial and error method as a survival process for life only makes sense if the environment that imposes selection pressure is not something that god has control over. God, perforce, has to make life adapt to changing milieu that can come in the form of slow climate change or sudden asteroid impacts. Either god is playing a macabre game with us, something the faithful will vehemently deny, or there are certain variables in creation that are out of his divine hands. If one runs with the latter possibility, we have a being that hasn't quite figured the nuts and bolts of creating universes capable of harboring life.

    :up: :ok:

    The idea of nothing seems germane to my thesis; after all, trial and error as a method seems closer to an absence of a creator than a presence of one.
  • tim wood
    5.5k
    if such a being exists,TheMadFool

    If, If, if, if, if, if if, if-if-if-if. If frogs had wings they wouldn't bump their asses on the ground. Given if, I can prove anything about anything, and quickly. Can we please, at least most of the time, try to reason from something stronger than an "if"? It has its place, but too often out of it, and nor does it require much in the way of reason - barely any. It's a substitute for thought and an excuse for not thinking, a lever of the fond for elevating the merely foolish to whatever level of insanity is being sought. Let us everyone do better!
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    If, If, if, if, if, if if, if-if-if-if. If frogs had wings they wouldn't bump their asses on the ground. Given if, I can prove anything about anything, and quickly. Can we please, at least most of the time, try to reason from something stronger than an "if"? It has its place, but too often out of it, and nor does it require much in the way of reason - barely any. It's a substitute for thought and an excuse for not thinking, a lever of the fond for elevating the merely foolish to whatever level of insanity is being sought. Let us everyone do better!tim wood

    If if not
    Everything I got
    But that is not
    Ergo, I if a lot
  • tim wood
    5.5k
    If if not
    Everything I got
    But that is not
    Ergo, I if a lot
    TheMadFool

    A smile and nod from e. e. cummings. You wouldn't care to punctuate, would you?
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    A smile and nod from e. e. cummings. You wouldn't care to punctuate, would you?tim wood

    :grin: Sorry, bad at punctuation and worse at grammar. Thanks for your comment though.
  • tim wood
    5.5k
    I was gonna say at least you can spell, e.g., grammar. But then, "puncutation."
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    I was gonna say at least you can spell, e.g., grammar. But then, "puncutation."tim wood

    :rofl:
  • tim wood
    5.5k
    My fun, but yours best!
  • Coben
    1.6k
    It's something that hasn't escaped my notice but be mindful that you used the word "simple" and substituted "diversity" for the word most often used viz. "complexity" when people describe the universe. Are you trying to avoid a contradiction here?TheMadFool
    Maybe unconsciously, but complexity also works I think. I mean a simple trial and error program - which I don't think is so simple since it depends on very complicated molecules - leads to complexity. Yes, I can stand behind that statement, not sure why I switched to diversity. It is both complex and diverse and the lifeforms in themselves can be incredibly complex.
    So, you agree then that there are better ways to create universes.TheMadFool
    I didn't say that. Our minds can't create universes, at least, not yet. Unless we are somehow, not consciously.
    I guess it depends on whether the complexity evident in the universe is part of god's plan. If it is then he truly is a being of incommensurable intelligence but if it isn't then so much for god's intelligence. A clue to decide which of these possibilities is true can be found in the many design flaws our bodies have.TheMadFool
    This is a different argument or a different facet of a larger argument. So we have the simplicity argument, which I responded to and I don't think it holds. Now we are looks at the flaw design argument....
    It depends on the values of that deity. It depends on whether the deity is omnipotent or not. I don't think what we consider flaws means that God is not incredibly intelligent, since we don't know God's goals, at least those of us who don't nor God's value.
    By the way, a trial and error method as a survival process for life only makes sense if the environment that imposes selection pressure is not something that god has control over. God, perforce, has to make life adapt to changing milieu that can come in the form of slow climate change or sudden asteroid impactsTheMadFool
    If God set the whole thing rolling then he set both nature and nurture in motion.
    Either god is playing a macabre game with us, something the faithful will vehemently deny, or there are certain variables in creation that are out of his divine hands. If one runs with the latter possibility, we have a being that hasn't quite figured the nuts and bolts of creating universes capable of harboring life.TheMadFool

    Or the deity has values that are the same as ours or value that are similar but the deity can see more deeply into the consequences. Or there is a demiurge situation. Or the deity is not completely infallible. The Abrahamics have trouble with the idea of a fallible deity or a deity that is also learning, but other religions do not.

    But now we seem to be rolling into a variety of arguments, more or less under the Problem of Evil baliwick. I hadn't encountered the simplicity problem before and was mainly interested in that.
  • Hippyhead
    727
    The idea of nothing seems germane to my thesis; after all, trial and error as a method seems closer to an absence of a creator than a presence of one.TheMadFool

    God, creator, supreme being, supernatural entity. These are nouns. Like all nouns they presume the existence (or non-existence) of some separate phenomena, a thing, with properties which define that thing, and thereby divide it from other phenomena.

    Centuries of debate arise regarding what the properties of such a thing called God might be. Such discussions are almost always built upon an unexamined assumption that a God should be considered a thing with properties, even if the only property is non-existence.

    What if God is not a thing?
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    I suppose it all depends on the actual dynamic between life and its environment. If the environment can change suddenly without warning then it makes sense to have some portion of the population with the right mutatations to see them through. It might be a trade-off between some form/stage in the life of organisms that's conducive to reproduction, rearing young and being prepared for catastrophic alterations in the environment. To achieve the former, organisms may need to lose the ability to adapt in real time and in the lattter's case we have mutations occurring during reproduction. If this were the case, trial and error is the best method of ensuring a continuous, unbroken line of living things extending from the first life-forms in the past, through us in the present, and into the future yet to come.

    What if God is not a thing?Hippyhead

    The question doesn't make sense. God has to be something, right? The alternative to something is nothing and if god is nothing, it's just a fancy way of saying god doesn't exist.
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    To those interested

    As @Coben pointed out for our benefit God, if he exists, didn't employ only the trial and error method in the creation of the universe; after all, there are the laws of nature - fixed patterns in matter-energy interactions - that stand testament to that fact. Perhaps given the laws of nature, the trial and error method is best for life.

    Furthermore, from a scientific and mathematical perspective, simplicity, especially one that packs a powerful punch like in our universe, is a mark of genius. Has anyone done any research on whether there are any redundancies in the universe in terms of unnecessary laws, processes, etc. insofar as life is concerned? Basically, could the universe have begun simpler without affecting its existing, or precluding even more, complexity ? If that were not possible then it bespeaks prodigious brainpower. If, on the other hand, the birth of universes can be simplified further it means 1. simplicity wasn't achieved and/or 2. simplicity didn't figure among the priorities and both indicate a dull mind if nothing else.
  • Hippyhead
    727
    The question doesn't make sense.TheMadFool

    Right, it doesn't make sense to because 1) our minds have been trained by evolution to focus on things, and 2) thought works by dividing reality in to conceptual objects (ie. things).

    The fact that a theory that God is perhaps not a thing doesn't make sense to us is not a very important piece of evidence given our built-in bias for things, and how incredibly small we are in relation to reality as a whole. The Internet doesn't make sense to your dog. So what??

    God has to be something, right?TheMadFool

    If the overwhelming vast majority of reality can be a nothing (or perhaps relative nothing) why would God be required to be a something?

    The alternative to something is nothing and if god is nothing, it's just a fancy way of saying god doesn't exist.TheMadFool

    Does space exist? Space is very clearly real, but to our knowledge it has none of the properties we use to define existence such as mass, weight, shape, form, color etc. Math is also clearly real, and also clearly does not exist. According to science all of reality arose from nothing, or something very close to nothing. So, sorry, no. A theory that God is nothing does not automatically equal atheism.

    I would ask the following of readers:

    1) The Nature Of Thought: Shift much of your focus from the content of thought (this idea vs. that idea) to the nature of thought, how it works. When you see that thought operates by dividing reality in to conceptual objects, it will become clear that this is an important form of built-in bias which affects all observations.

    In this case it may be that thought insists on turning God in to a conceptual object, a thing, because that's how thought interacts with all phenomena, divide and label. The division we presume to be between "God" and "non-God" may be a property of the tool being used to make the observation, and not a property of what is being observed. As example, if we look at the world while wearing tinted sunglasses, everything we observe will appear to be tint colored.

    2) Space: The overwhelming vast majority of reality at every scale is space. If our goal is to develop understandings grounded in observation of reality, then space should be our primary focus. It's not our primary focus because of the built-in bias for division and "things" referenced above in item #1.

    It seems reasonable to consider whether God may not be a thing in reality, but instead reality itself. If true, then God would be real, while being overwhelmingly what we typically refer to as nothing.
  • Hippyhead
    727
    As Coben pointed out for our benefit God, if he existsTheMadFool

    For the 99th time, I would like to respectfully suggest we try dropping the "does God exist or not" paradigm. The vast majority of reality does not tidily fit in to the "exists or not" paradigm, clear evidence suggesting that a God would not necessarily be limited to "exists or not".

    My own guess is that the simplistic dualistic "exists or not" framework is our mind's way of trying to map it's own limitations on to all of reality.
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    You've made some very intriguing statements, especially about space. I believe the modern scientific understanding of space is not that it's nothing - it has properties and, according to relativity, it warps around extremely massive objects like stars and black holes.

    That aside, I would like to draw your attention to the difference between nothing and space with an illustration. Take the life of your average person on the street. Let's call this person Smith. Say Smith is born in 1930 and dies in 2020 living a full life of 90 years. You can graph Smith's worldline - it'll begin 1900 and end 1990. The question is "where was Smith before 1930 and where will Smith be after 2020?". My personal take on Smith's whereabouts is 1) he doesn't exist, is nothing, before 1930 and after 2020, and 2) he wasn't in space-time pre-1930 and isn't in space-time post-2020. Basically nonexistence, nothingness, is something completey beyond space and time. So, even if it's true that we can't speak of space as existing, it doesn't mean nothing can be equated to space.

    Coming to the matter of how our mind operates,

    I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail. — Abraham Maslow

    My rejoinder to Maslow would be,

    If everything is a nail, might as well have a hammer — TheMadFool
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    dualistic "exists or not"Hippyhead

    Offer me a third option then.
  • Hippyhead
    727
    Offer me a third option then.TheMadFool

    Space. The vast majority of reality. Does not neatly fit in to either the "exists" or "not exists" category.

    Explained this now about 100 times in a number of threads across the forum.
  • Hippyhead
    727
    I believe the modern scientific understanding of space is not that it's nothing - it has properties and, according to relativity, it warps around extremely massive objects like stars and black holes.TheMadFool

    Generally agreed, and this is why I often include the alternate descriptor of "relative nothing" to describe space.

    Anyway, the point is that space doesn't have the properties we usually use to define existence. And yet it is real. Thus, any conversation which assumes that the only options for God are exist vs. not-exist would seem to be blatantly ignoring evidence from the vast majority of reality. It seems useful to observe a few things here.

    1) First, blatantly ignoring observations of reality would seem to be a serious heresy for atheists.

    2) Second, we might observe how almost all of the leading "experts" on all sides of the God question have long assumed without questioning that a God can only exist or not exist. And we might observe how we blindly follow them in to what seems an obvious error.
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    Space. The vast majority of reality. Does not neatly fit in to either the "exists" or "not exists" category.

    Explained this now about 100 times in a number of threads across the forum.
    Hippyhead

    Sorry, I don't follow. I've been trying to wrap my head around the idea of existence for as long as I can remember with nothing to show for it.

    That you mentioned about how god could be nothing is pertinent to the problem I'm grappling with because god, majority opinion says, is immaterial and the sticking point here is that existence is defined in material terms.

    We say that something exists if and only if it's detectable through our senses and their extensions, instruments but this is also the definition of the material.

    In other words, existence = material for all intents and purposes. This is a serious setback for someone who wants to claim that god is both immaterial and that god exists for it's a contradictio in terminis. The same difficulty arises when we say god is nothing.

    Perhaps we need to create subcategories for the notion of detectability like so:

    1. Detectable by the senses and instruments = material existence

    2. Detectable by means other than the senses and instruments = immaterial existence type 1

    3. Undetectable by any means whatsoever = immaterial existence type 2

    I don't know. What's your take on this?

    Furthermore, your view on space is also relevant to my problem. Space, as every schoolboy knows, isn't material in that it has no mass, can't be perceived with our senses and so on but it's something we're very familiar with - from the emptiness of our favorite cup to the vacuum of outer space, we encounter space almost constantly in our lives.

    Contrast the above [over]familiarity with space to our complete ignorance of or difficulty understanding what nothing is or means. If you ask me, it points to a difference, real or not I'm not sure, between space and nothing. What do you think?
  • Hippyhead
    727
    Sorry, I don't follow. I've been trying to wrap my head around the idea of existence for as long as I can remember with nothing to show for it.TheMadFool

    Existence = made of atoms.

    That you mentioned about how god could be nothing is pertinent to the problem I'm grappling with because god, majority opinion says, is immaterial and the sticking point here is that existence is defined in material terms.TheMadFool

    "Existence" is a human concept which is useful in our everyday lives at human scale. A pencil exists on my desk. Even though the pencil overwhelmingly consists of non-existence, at human scale we need not concern ourselves with such details.

    The problem would seem to arise when we attempt to map these local scale human concepts on to vastly different scales. And so we argue for centuries whether God exists or not, as if God is or isn't a thing, equivalent to a pencil.

    Observation of reality seems to offer a way out of this very tired box. Space illustrates that a phenomena can be real without meeting our definition of existence. At the least this might teach us that we can stop clinging stubbornly to the widely shared assumption that a God is required to exist, or not exist, one or the other.

    In other words, existence = material for all intents and purposes. This is a serious setback for someone who wants to claim that god is both immaterial and that god exists for it's a contradictio in terminis. The same difficulty arises when we say god is nothing.TheMadFool

    Who cares about contradictions in terms? These are rules created by infinitely small half insane creatures, so it's not likely they are binding upon all of reality including any gods that may be contained within.

    What do I think? If there is something such as God, human thought would be unlikely to be able to grasp such a unifying phenomena, given that human thought operates by a process of division. As example, the word God is a noun, and like all nouns it presumes some phenomena which is separate from other phenomena. So every time we type the word God we are reinforcing our built-in bias towards thinking of God as a thing. And so we argue for centuries regarding whether that thing exists or not.
  • TheMadFool
    7.6k
    Existence = made of atoms.Hippyhead

    :ok:

    "Existence" is a human concept which is useful in our everyday lives at human scaleHippyhead

    :ok:

    Even though the pencil overwhelmingly consists of non-existenceHippyhead

    A pencil doesn't have atoms?

    Space illustrates that a phenomena can be real without meeting our definition of existence.Hippyhead

    Space doesn't have atoms.

    God we are reinforcing our built-in bias towards thinking of God as a thingHippyhead

    So, god isn't made of atoms or is he? If you're going to compare god to space then, it must be that god isn't atom-based and so, as per your definition, god doesn't exist and he's real because you believe space is real. In short, you believe god doesn't exist but god is real. :chin:
  • Hippyhead
    727
    A pencil doesn't have atoms?TheMadFool

    Of course it has atoms, but the pencil overwhelmingly consists of space, like everything else. You know, an atom is mostly space.

    Space doesn't have atoms.TheMadFool

    Right. And so space doesn't meet our definition of existence, as it has no mass or weight etc. But as we seem to all agree, space is nonetheless real.

    In short, you believe god doesn't exist but god is real.TheMadFool

    I don't believe anything about god one way or the other.

    I'm examining the God debate.

    1) We can observe how there is near universal agreement between theists and atheists that a God either exists, or not, one or the other.

    2) We can observe that this either/or, exists or not, one or the other assumption at the heart of the God debate is false. "Exists" and "doesn't exist" are not the only options. Space illustrates that a phenomena can both: 1) not meet our definition of existence, and 2) be real.

    What I see happening is that we've attempted to map a simplistic dualistic "exists or not" paradigm which is useful in our everyday human scale lives, on to an entirely different scale such as we enter when discussing the most fundamental nature of everything everywhere, ie. God theories.

    95%+ of God theories and debate by both amateurs and professionals are built upon the "exists or not" assumption. Most commentators focus all their attention on achieving a rhetorical victory on that battlefield. If we 1) disengage from the either/or battlefield, and 2) instead look at the either/or assumption those battles are built upon, and 3) discover that assumption is wrong, then....

    We have liberated ourselves from the God debate in it's usual form.

    And, we have liberated ourselves from authority, given that most authority figures on all sides take the either/or, exists or not, one or the other assumption at the heart of the God debate to be an obvious given not meriting our attention. In other words, the emperor has no clothes, the authority figures on all sides don't really know what they're talking about. They are probably authorities because they have the knack for projecting that image.

    Given that the God debate has failed to produce anything but more of the same for at least 500 years, liberating ourselves from this proven failure, and those leading it, seems a step in the right direction.
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