The Instigator
Bix
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
belle
Con (against)
Winning
10 Points

There is no "God hypothesis".

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
belle
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/18/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,412 times Debate No: 12366
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)

 

Bix

Pro

I argue that there exists no god hypothesis on the following grounds:

1: The definition of god is purely subjective.
2: As a result of 1, the definition of god is arbitrary.
3: A scientific definition must be objective and testable, and as subjective and arbitrary definitions are neither objective nor testable, such definitions cannot be scientific.
4: supposing that such definitions were somehow able to be made objective, the sheer volume of them and their variability makes forming a hypothesis patently unworkable.
belle

Con

My argument will be simple- I shall attempt to refute your points one by one

"The definition of god is purely subjective."

That doesn't mean it (or they rather) can't be dealt with objectively. For example, say my god does abc, and yours does xyz. They would constitute two separate hypotheses that can be tested separately. Just because there is disagreement, that doesn't mean that there is no objective way to investigate it.

"As a result of 1, the definition of god is arbitrary."

So what? Language is 100% arbitrary, but it can be studied scientifically. So is what side of the road we drive on for that matter. So this point is irrelevant.

I would also contend that its untrue. Most beliefs about god are affected by holy books and the words of holy teachers, not simply arbitrarily assigned. Unless you can point out to me a god who is a really great accountant and likes Parcheesi…

"A scientific definition must be objective and testable, and as subjective and arbitrary definitions are neither objective nor testable, such definitions cannot be scientific."

Something arbitrary can be studied by science, and something subjective can be made objective simply by taking a specific conception as such. There are many god hypotheses, most of which can be tested.

"supposing that such definitions were somehow able to be made objective, the sheer volume of them and their variability makes forming a hypothesis patently unworkable."

You don't need only one; you can have several. Almost every conception of god held by individuals gives him testable qualities. It makes some predictions about what we would expect to observe if this god really existed. That's all that's necessary for a testable hypothesis. There may not be one that all believers would agree to, but so what. I'm sure there's one that the majority of believers would agree to, and many more besides.

So no, there is not a single "god" hypothesis, at least not one that all believers would assent to. There are many, much more than one. As more than one is more than none, consider the resolution negated.
Debate Round No. 1
Bix

Pro

Hello Belle, thank you for responding and I wish for this to be a good debate for the both of us.

You have responded to my argument that there cannot be a god hypothesis by way of attempting refute my points one by one. I will also respond to your counterarguments one by one.

"That doesn't mean it (or they rather) can't be dealt with objectively. For example, say my god does abc, and yours does xyz. They would constitute two separate hypotheses that can be tested separately. Just because there is disagreement, that doesn't mean that there is no objective way to investigate it."

I am not arguing about what god does, but what god is. In other words, what, scientifically, is a god? God needs to have a scientific classification in order to distinguish it from other things and to put it into the context of current knowledge i.e. a mutual point of reference. This would be an objective definition. To use your analogy where I have a god and you another, how do we know if what we are referring to is really god and not something completely different? There may well be more than one god or different kinds of gods (just as there is more than one flower and different kinds of flowers), but without its own classification as a phenomena, we cannot test that assumption.

"So what? Language is 100% arbitrary, but it can be studied scientifically. So is what side of the road we drive on for that matter. So this point is irrelevant."

This relates somewhat to my refutation of counterargument 1. In order to study god scientifically, it needs a scientific classification in order to distinguish it from other things. Language has a scientific classification: communication system.

"I would also contend that its untrue. Most beliefs about god are affected by holy books and the words of holy teachers, not simply arbitrarily assigned. Unless you can point out to me a god who is a really great accountant and likes Parcheesi…"

How do we know religious scriptures or peoples are correct in their definition of god? Most definitions of god are not based on science but rather opinion. New definitions of god are proposed all the time by both individuals and groups.

"Something arbitrary can be studied by science, and something subjective can be made objective simply by taking a specific conception as such. There are many god hypotheses, most of which can be tested."

I have already attempted to refute this point.

"Almost every conception of god held by individuals gives him testable qualities."

This is not about the aesthetics of a god or gods, but what constitutes a god or gods. I will reiterate that I am not arguing about what god does but what it is. In order to test the supposed abilities of a god or gods, we must first identify what a god or gods is. As I said, there may be many gods and many different gods at that, but without a mutual point of reference, that is a scientific classification for god, we cannot even begin to test those assumptions.
belle

Con

"I am not arguing about what god does, but what god is."

What god "does", or rather, any testable qualities he may have, is the result of what he is.

"God needs to have a scientific classification in order to distinguish it from other things and to put it into the context of current knowledge i.e. a mutual point of reference. This would be an objective definition. To use your analogy where I have a god and you another, how do we know if what we are referring to is really god and not something completely different?"

Thats easy- you choose to define the word god as whatever your hypothesis posits he is. Remember- the meaning of words is not inherent, but must be specified. If you wish to invalidate the god hypothesis because we don't know precisely what god is beforehand then you invalidate all hypotheses. For the very nature of a hypothesis is that of a guess, a suggestion of what one might find if they were to investigate carefully. The reason experiments are done is because scientists don't know exactly what they will find at the outset. A quick google search demonstrates that a "hypothesis" is simply a guess, and that the nature of the thing in question need not be known at the outset:

http://www.google.com...

"This relates somewhat to my refutation of counterargument 1. In order to study god scientifically, it needs a scientific classification in order to distinguish it from other things. Language has a scientific classification: communication system."

So does god: supernatural being.

"How do we know religious scriptures or peoples are correct in their definition of god? Most definitions of god are not based on science but rather opinion. New definitions of god are proposed all the time by both individuals and groups."

We don't. Because they are hypotheses. Thats the whole point of the hypothesis- to predict what you expect if a being possessing the qualities that you label god exists, and then to seek confirmation or discomfirmation of those predictions.

"In order to test the supposed abilities of a god or gods, we must first identify what a god or gods is. As I said, there may be many gods and many different gods at that, but without a mutual point of reference, that is a scientific classification for god, we cannot even begin to test those assumptions."

Since we made up the word "god" (we as in humanity collectively) we can define it however we please. That definition in hand, we can seek the evidence that such a thing exists. If the evidence is lacking we can change our definition and look again. Ad Nauseam. Not everyone has to agree in order to testing to begin. Only the people doing the tests.
Debate Round No. 2
Bix

Pro

"What god "does", or rather, any testable qualities he may have, is the result of what he is."

True, so what is god?

"... a "hypothesis" is simply a guess, and that the nature of the thing in question need not be known at the outset."

A phenomena is not defined by its nature. Nature being a description. For example: positively charged ion. We have the nature of the phenomena (positively charged) and the phenomena itself (ion).

"So does god: supernatural being."

I think you'll find that "supernatural being" is not a classification found in any textbook. Furthermore, what scientific field would we utilize to look for "supernatural beings"? The term "supernatural" is used to describe phenomena outside of scientific understanding.

"We don't. Because they are hypotheses."

Religious texts are not theoretical papers and religious persons are not theorists. Just making a claim is not the same as presenting a testable hypothesis.

"Since we made up the word "god" (we as in humanity collectively) we can define it however we please. That definition in hand, we can seek the evidence that such a thing exists. If the evidence is lacking we can change our definition and look again. Ad Nauseam. Not everyone has to agree in order to testing to begin. Only the people doing the tests."

There is a difference between a common definition used in everyday life and a scientific definition. A scientific definition of something is made to distinguish the phenomena from others (already known to exist). I can call god whatever I want outside of a lab, but inside I have to identify it specifically. All phenomena fall into sets and subsets (e.g. set: reptile: subset: snakes) and all of these are clearly identifiable from one another. God has many different everyday definitions which are vast in number and contradictory to one another and as a result they make scientific classification impossible.

A scientist does not want to have to rummage through every conceivable conception of god in order to begin testing as he neither has the time but more so because such definitions keep appearing. Scientists very rarely deal with competing hypotheses. But if they ever do, they deal with at the very most, a handful of competing theories. Your Ad Nauseam argument is false.
belle

Con

Unfortunately my opponent still seems confused by the idea of a hypothesis. I am having trouble following his argument.

"so what is god?"

Whatever we are looking for that we label god because:

"... a "hypothesis" is simply a guess, and that the nature of the thing in question need not be known at the outset."

"A phenomena is not defined by its nature. Nature being a description."

A definition is a description. To define a word is to describe the object it refers to. Its obvious that words exist to describe things that have no actual referrents (such as the word "unicorn"), and its obvious that we can set out to investigate whether or not unicorns exist (though good luck finding evidence). Thus not everyone has to agree on what god is for a god hypothesis to exist. The person putting forth and investigating the hypothesis simply has to specify, in other terms (ie supernatural being that is omnipotent and omniscient), exactly what it is that they are looking for. It doesn't matter that not everyone agrees that that is what god it, because NO ONE knows what god is, or if there even is such a thing.

If I start a cult declaring that an "electron" is actually a 5 headed gila monster, and manage to convert millions of people, so that whenever they use the word "electron" they mean five headed gila monster, that doesn't invalidate any hypothesis a scientist has about electrons when using the term in its traditional sense. The meaning of a word is not intrinsic, but rather is dependent on the meaning that we give it. Thus it doesn't matter HOW god is defined or WHO agrees to that definition as long as the people positing the hypothesis are clear on what they mean.

"I think you'll find that "supernatural being" is not a classification found in any textbook. Furthermore, what scientific field would we utilize to look for "supernatural beings"? The term "supernatural" is used to describe phenomena outside of scientific understanding."

Thats why there are hypotheses about it! Its not well understood. Supernatural simply means not subject to the laws of physics. It doesn't mean unknowable by scientific means. As long as supernatural events are observable phenomena (such as resurrection from the dead), they can be carefully observed and documented using scientific means.

"There is a difference between a common definition used in everyday life and a scientific definition. A scientific definition of something is made to distinguish the phenomena from others (already known to exist). I can call god whatever I want outside of a lab, but inside I have to identify it specifically."

This actually serves to support my point. The scientists can define precisely what they are looking for, and then look for it. Not ALL conceptions of god are amenable to this method, but most are. Its simply a matter of a being having properties that would effect our experience in some way. Again, we don't need to know what god is beforehand. We don't need to get everyone to agree on what the nature of god is. All we need is a group of scientists willing to say "if god is xyz then we would expect to see abc"- thats a god hypothesis. Its possible to investigate and confirm/disconfirm such a hypothesis. I am confused at what your objection is.

"A scientist does not want to have to rummage through every conceivable conception of god in order to begin testing as he neither has the time but more so because such definitions keep appearing. Scientists very rarely deal with competing hypotheses. But if they ever do, they deal with at the very most, a handful of competing theories. Your Ad Nauseam argument is false."

Of course they don't have to- they only deal with the hypotheses they think are likely. Or they could ignore all of them. That doesn't change the fact that said hypotheses exist. In earlier times there were many competing theories are to what gravity is- whether spooky action at a distance or disturbances in the aether, or a perturbation of spacetime. As it so happens the last one is correct. But scientists did NOT at the outset have any idea which hypothesis was correct. Over time they investigated all of them and Einstein's theory won out. Similarly, there are many competing hypotheses as to what god is. They could ALL BE FALSE. There could be no god. But it doesn't follow from that that the hypotheses themselves do not exist.
Debate Round No. 3
Bix

Pro

Because we have both written a lot, I have decided to summarize our arguments.

From what I have read, your argument is as follows:

A god hypothesis can exist because god can be defined. This definition does not have to be mutually accepted. From this definition we can extrapolate the supposed properties and/or abilities of god and test these to establish or refute the existence of god.

My argument is as follows:

A god hypothesis cannot exist because god cannot be defined IN RELATION TO current knowledge about the universe. A scientific definition is one that relates to what is already known and can be put into that context. That way, scientists know what they are looking for and where/how to look for it.

It is my understanding that you are having trouble following my argument. I will try to explain further.

I am a scientist proposing a hypothesis that black holes exist. I define a black hole as the collapsed core of a super-giant star. This hypothesis is viable due to the following:

1) I have defined the hypothesized phenomena in relation to current knowledge. Scientists already know about stars and gravitation. They can therefore work from this prior understanding.
2) I have defined the hypothesized phenomena in the context of current knowledge. That is, I know where to look for the proposed phenomena: in space.
3) I have defined the hypothesized phenomena within a specific field or fields of study. Stars are astronomical phenomena. Gravitation is studied in physics. I therefore already have my fields of study in which to prove/disprove the existence of black holes: physics and astronomy.

Now few hypotheses would overtly state where we should look or what fields we should study in order to prove/disprove a phenomena, however, they are always at least implied by what is being hypothesized.

Now let me try to put god into a hypothesis.

Firstly, I need to define god in relation to current knowledge. In nature, what would god be? I immediately face the hurdle of trying to state in scientific terms what god is supposed to be, a force, an energy, what? There are many ideas but which one should the scientist look into? God cannot be all of those things and the scientist cannot look into all of them singularly ether. Under normal circumstances, such as the analogy with black holes, the scientist has been given something specific and something that relates to what he already knows, from which he can work from. With god, there is no specificity (or way of coming to specificity) nor anywhere to start from.

For arguments sake, I will use your definition of god: a supernatural being.

Now I need to put "supernatural being" in the context of current knowledge, that is to say, where would I look for a "supernatural being"? A being is classified as a living organism of some sort. Is god therefore supposed to be biological? But what of "supernatural"? This implies something outside of nature. All biological organisms, even theorized ones (like the Loch Ness Monster) are at least considered to be within nature. We can therefore look for them. God however is implied to be an organism outside of nature. You are therefore hypothesizing something that is impossible to look for, making the hypothesis untenable.

Finally, what field would I study to find a supernatural being? As I said, a "being" is a biological organism. So it is implied that I use biology to look for god. But then there is the matter of the being being "supernatural". There is no field in science that studies supernatural phenomena.

Please note the the second and third points were made for arguments sake. Without first being able define god as it relates to what is already known, it is impossible to address the second and third points.
belle

Con

I thank my opponent for his attempt to clarify. As this is the last round, I will attempt to restate my position in light of his blackhole/god example.

1. Defining God in relation to other knowledge- Supernatural being should suffice here. We know what natural things are (those objects subject to the laws of physics) and we know what a being is (a creature possessing some degree of agency)- so a supernatural being would be some acting consciousness that is not subject to the laws of physics. In the same way, even though we have never seen a unicorn, we know what a horse is and we know what a horn is... so we can imagine a unicorn and attempt to look for one. It doesn't matter that horses don't *really* have horns, just like it doesn't matter (in this context) that we've only observed consciousness in biological creatures. We can consider it as a seperate feature and investigate whether it might be at work in some supernatural fashion.

2. Defining god in the context of other knowledge (what? thats the same as the last one.... I am going to assume you meant:) Knowing where to look- Observations that would support such a being's existence include violations of the laws of physics (ie divine intervention/miracles) and observations on the efficacy of prayer (this study has been done and god failed).(http://www.nytimes.com...). If found, either of these phenomena would be evidence for a consciousness acting outside the laws of nature and warrant further investigation.

3. Field of study- in the case of the prayer example, medical outcomes. In looking for violations of the laws of physics, physics I suppose. Certainly there is an obvious way to discover whether violations of physics are occurring- observe many types of physical phenomena. People are eager to see miracles; the fact that most things so called are debunked is evidence that routine violations are not occurring. If you hypothesized a new species of beetle, you would not look for it with "biology" but by observing the world to see if any species matching your expectation exists. Similarly when looking for a god.

My opponent has claimed that because a being is an organism, parts two and three would be hopelessly self contradictory. However, this is not so. As I said in 1, just because all "beings" we have observed to now have been biological, it doesn't follow that all possible beings will be biological.

He also has claimed that in order for something to be studied scientifically it must be explainable or understandable in terms of current scientific understanding. This is blatantly false, and to claim it as fact would prevent science from studying things that are not already well known.

I hope I have made my case. There is nothing inherently wrong with a "god hypothesis". God can be (and has been!) at least partially tested through the scientific method. We don't need to know what a thing IS in order to observe and understand its effects.

Thanks for reading!
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by TheSkeptic 6 years ago
TheSkeptic
Meh, a simple response (that I'm sure both belle and theLwerd have caught on to) is that there is a distinction between a semantical meaning of a word and the speaker meaning of the world. In philosophy, ideally the speaker should align their meaning of word X with the semantical meaning of word X, unless you're introducing new terminology for whatever purpose (e.g. Heidegger).
Posted by Danielle 6 years ago
Danielle
I'm pretty sure that when debating about god there's a philosophical standard (definition) for what god is. I remember I brought up this argument about subjectivity in my first philosophy class but the professor shot it down. While it's true that people can have many gods i.e. define god any way they please - such as the pantheistic god or what have you - I'm pretty sure qualities like being infinite and conscious are always applicable when talking about god. Other monotheistic sentiments also usually apply, but at least those first 2. Should be an interesting debate...
Posted by I-am-a-panda 6 years ago
I-am-a-panda
Replace God with Art. Just saying.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Yvette 6 years ago
Yvette
BixbelleTied
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Vote Placed by biggizzle93 6 years ago
biggizzle93
BixbelleTied
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