# Computing the Probability of God

Computing the Probability of God October 19, 2017

Have you heard of the Drake equation? It’s a simple product of seven values, and it attempts to compute the number of civilizations in our galaxy with whom radio communication might be possible.

Now that we have found clear evidence of planets around other stars, the equation is slightly more practical than when it was first proposed over a half-century ago, but it still demands reliable figures for factors we can now only guess at: the fraction of planets in the average solar system that could potentially support life, the fraction of those that produce life, that continue on to develop intelligent life, whose intelligent life develops technology, and so on.

#### How likely is God?

We have a similar problem when we evaluate the claims of Christianity.

Physicist Stephen Unwin wrote The Probability of God (2004) and, yes, he proposes to compute the likelihood that God exists. He uses Bayes’ theorem (I wrote an introduction to Bayes’ theorem here). You can take his equation below as a given, or you can see how it is derived from a more conventional form of Bayes’ theorem in the appendix. You’ll soon see that the interesting part isn’t the math but the assumptions that Unwin makes.

We start with a beginning probability of God’s existence, Pbefore. Use a scaling factor D—Unwin’s “divine indicator,” which is a measure of the likelihood of God given certain evidence—we compute Pafter. Unwin uses values of D from 10 (given a particular bit of evidence, God is much more likely to exist than not) to 0.1 (given this evidence, God is much less likely to exist).

Once he has a new probability Pafter, he uses that value as his new Pbefore and repeats the computation with another value of D, reflecting the likelihood of God given another piece of evidence. The computation is quite simple. The unreliable part, as with the Drake equation, is determining the probabilities.

#### Unwinding Unwin

We need an initial probability—the likelihood of God given no evidence. Unwin uses Pbefore = 0.5 and calls this “maximum ignorance.”

His first bit of evidence is evidence for human goodness. For this, he uses D = 10 (God is much likelier given that human goodness exists). Plug in the numbers, and the equation gives Pafter = 0.91. The equation simply provides a way to merge these different factors into a single probability for God. Here are his six factors with their associated D values:

• Human goodness, such as altruism (D = 10)
• Existence of moral evil—that is, evil done by humans (D = 0.5)
• Existence of natural evil such as natural disasters (D = 0.1)
• Minor miracles such as answered prayers (D = 2)
• Major miracles that break the rules—a dead person brought back to life, for example (D = 1)
• Evidence of religious experience such as feelings of awe (D = 2)

And after all that, the probability of God is 0.67. God is likelier to exist than not.

#### It’s math! How you gonna disagree with that?

(Let me note that I haven’t read Unwin’s book but instead have relied on helpful critiques by Vic Stenger and The Friendly Atheist.)

I take exception to Unwin’s assumptions. First, let’s revisit our starting probability about God. Does Zeus exist? Thor? Osiris? Shiva? Quetzalcoatl? If the answer is “Are you serious? Of course not!” then why do we start with a 0.5 probability for Yahweh, especially when he looks like just another Canaanite god?

If Unwin wants to dismiss this information at the starting gate, I can accept that. But then let’s add it in as a new factor:

• Humans have a passion for inventing supernatural gods. Believers make contradictory claims, so most of these claims must be false. Yahweh looks like just one invented god. (D = .001)

Next, let’s reevaluate Unwin’s six factors.

• Goodness: Altruism exists in humans. This isn’t surprising since we’re social animals. Evolution has selected us with an innate sense of the Golden Rule. The Christian view also explains good traits in humans, so this gives no preference either way. (D = 1)
• Moral evil: Humans do terrible things sometimes, and the natural explanation has no trouble with this. But Man made in God’s image with an innate sense of God’s existence? The popular free will defense fails. No, this Christian claim maps poorly to the unpleasant reality. (D = 0.01)
• Natural evil: Indiscriminate killers like natural disasters, disease, and other calamities—things that an omnipotent God could eliminate—are hard for Christianity to explain. Birth defects and other gratuitous evil compound the problem. (D = 0.0001)
• Miracles: The Bible says, “Ask and ye shall receive,” but prayers aren’t answered the way the Bible promises, not even the selfless ones. Coincidences abound, but we have little besides wishful thinking to imagine that they are the work of God. (D = 0.001)
• Rule-breaking miracles: Jesus promised, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these,” but science knows of zero amputated limbs that have grown back or dead people supernaturally returned to life. Surely there have been millions of earnest prayers for these, but they have been unanswered. (D = 0.0001)
• Religious experience: We feel awe in response to both natural realities and supernatural claims. (D = 1)

The probability is now down to 10–16, but we’re just getting started. There are lots more uncomfortable facts about Christianity.

#### Piling on: more factors to consider

The probability of God is now basically zero (10–38 if you’re keeping score at home).

The apologist might demand equal time for the Transcendental Argument, the Design Argument, the Moral Argument, and so on. I don’t think they get out of the gate (click on the links for more).

The underlying problem with Unwin’s argument is that different people will weigh the factors differently. Clues for God’s existence aren’t unambiguous. I’m sure you thought that at least some of my numbers above were off, and you may have thought of other facts that have been overlooked. Nevertheless, the attempt to make the God question quantitative, interesting though it may be, seems hopeless.

The subtitle of Unwin’s book is A Simple Calculation That Proves the Ultimate Truth. Yes, it’s a simple calculation, but no, it doesn’t prove God. In fact, the evidence points in the opposite direction.

All Westboro [Baptist Church] was
was evangelical Christianity minus polite behavior.
— Frank Shaeffer interview on Point of Inquiry

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 04/09/14.)

Photo credit: Andy Melton, flickr, CC

#### Appendix:

Bayes’ theorem is easy to understand visually by using a probability tree. See my introductory post for a discussion of that. It’s less easy to understand (for me, anyway) through equations.

Here’s the derivation of the equation used by Unwin, starting with Bayes’ theorem. We’re computing P(G | E), the probability (P) of God existing (G) given (|) the evidence (E). Bayes’ theorem says:

where P(~G) is the probability of God not existing. Define D as follows:

D is Unwin’s “divine indicator,” the scaling factor that represents how likely the evidence E would be if God existed rather than God not existing. Now multiply top and bottom of Bayes’ equation by 1/P(E | ~G):

Since P(~G) = 1 – P(G),

Or, using the terminology of Unwin:

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• watcher_b

I appreciate he used Bayes Theorem. It creates a foundation for discussion that CAN be objective. Doesn’t guarantee it would be, but at least it is a start.

I find it hilarious that even in his biased example he only got to .67. That is stupid low, especially if one believes in eternal torture for not believing that this god exists. God has only given his creation a 67% chance of finding himself, and if they don’t they spend an eternity being tortured? That is far from being a loving God.

• ColdFusion8

Hey, you’re never going to get to Heaven thinking logically like that!

• Syzygy

I just wanna get to heaven so I can fuck a lot of angels.
I’m sure there are some hot ones.

• Greg G.

The hot ones will not be in heaven.

• Syzygy

I remember, “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”

• Greg G.

You have convinced me!

• Michael Neville

Another Meatloaf/Jim Steinman fan.

• Greg G.

Meatloaf AGAIN?

Sorry, Rocky Horror flashback.

• Cozmo the Magician

mmmmmm meatloaf….

• It would be good enough for Pascal.

• Robert Templeton

Pascal: All things considered, don’t consider the other 99.9999% of the imaginary gods – just consider mine and not mine. Therefore, I win, er, you win.

• Yes, the definition of a false dilemma. You expect better from a mathematician and philosopher.

• Grimlock

D[God’s existence is less than 0.99 epistemically probable] = 0.1?

• Robert Templeton

Especially considering that he started with the default calculation of 0.5 (probability of 50/50 for the existence of a supernatural deity named God that has all of the properties being espoused). One has argued that this is the default for a is/isn’t proposition – but I think that the initial value should take into consideration other relevances instead of a simple ‘start at equal probability chance’. Especially when considering something unevidenced and supernatural.

• TheNuszAbides

Seems to me that all apologetic sops to reason/logic rely far too heavily on “well, countless faithful throughout history get the gist of what I’m talking about, right? so, so there!”

• Cozmo the Magician

The house may not ALWAYS win, but wins enough that it stays in business.

• watcher_b

ooooh, and it only wins enough for those who already start with a presupposition of belief! If you start with a lower prior then the odds are no longer in “God’s” favor!

• Robert Templeton

Note that the probabilities they use always give the house an advantage so that the occasional win is far outpaced by the loses. Worse yet is that the advantage is just slightly over ‘fair’ or ‘balanced’ – just enough to always be ahead while giving the rubes a sense of being capable of winning more than is really possible – see lotteries et al.

• Herald Newman

Bayes only works when you have established probabilities for what you’re working on. Simply put, we have no reason to believe that any of his so called “evidence” is actually evidence for a god, let alone his particular god. All of the claimed evidence cannot be shown to actually be evidence.

Only an apologist, who wants to pull the wool over the eyes of his flock, would use a tool for what it is not designed for. It’s completely dishonest, and shows how low apologists are willing to go.

• ColdFusion8

But his book on your coffee table looks good when your Christian friends come over for a circle jerk, er, prayer meeting.

• You forget that the prior probabilities are grounded in the well-established evidence for the supernatural.

• Herald Newman

Can you give me an example of some of this well-established evidence for the supernatural? I wasn’t aware that we had even established that the supernatural existed?

• Grimlock

I suspect sarcasm…

• Herald Newman

So do I but, ever since Trump came into power, I’m not sure of anything anymore.

• Grimlock

Haha, good point!

• David B Teague

We did. We were screwed, blued, and tattooed.

• Chuck Johnson

Trump and his administration are a great source of public education and enlightenment.
But not in the way that he had hoped.

• ThaneOfDrones
• You suspect correctly!

• I can’t. Cuz I was kidding.

• Herald Newman

I, incorrectly, assumed that sarcasm would be accompanied by a /s or 😉

• Chuck Johnson

My definition of “evidence” is “Information which tends to persuade or dissuade”.

As such, I see plenty of evidence that the supernatural really does exist.
But I, personally am not persuaded.

Religion is a cultural phenomenon which could not exist without plenty of evidence to verify it.
In these nonreligious blogs we discuss the poor quality of that evidence.

Practicing this kind of skeptical thinking is useful for more things than just disproving Christianity.

• Lark62

You must be new here.

• Often you’ll see an argument (fine tuning, design, whatever) that concludes, “A godless universe is unlikely; therefore God” without even an acknowledgement that there is no evaluation of the likelihood of God.

• Bob Jase

Let’s make it really easy

x = the probability of the existance of god, x = 0 because I say so.

• TheNuszAbides

refreshing efficiency!

• TheMountainHumanist

First poor assumption — assuming that a god is good. Could be a CThulu situation.

• Joe

A really shitty god would have a much higher probability than 0.67. For example, a rain god who’s only purpose is to make it rain some of the time would get a probability of 1.0.

• TheMountainHumanist

Apparently Windus, the Hurricane God is currently in ascension..along with Infernus in California 🙂

• Lark62

Abeted by Ignoramus in Washington.

• ThaneOfDrones

I think that’s part of the definition. In Western philosophy of religion, the “omni-God” – omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, are considered the minimal standards t o be met for a being to earn the title of “God.”

• TheMountainHumanist

Then indeed we could proceed from that premise in a discussion about that god.

But then…we would even then end up with differing opinions about what is good.

I have heard some fundamentalists claim that it was a benevolent thing that Yahweh ordered Joshua to slay the infants of neighboring tribes…better they die young then risk being raised as a “pagan.”

• Gary Whittenberger

We’d have to hash out a standard definition of “good” and especially “perfectly good.” I think in this context it actually refers to morality, and we should discuss “perfectly moral.” When any intelligent agent behaves in a perfectly moral manner, how does it behave? Hard question there.

I suggest that intelligent agents which are moral follow this principle: “Minimize harm to others to the extent that you can.” That might be a good starting point. What do you think?

By the way, I am an atheist.

• Greg G.

I suggest that intelligent agents which are moral follow this principle: “Minimize harm to others to the extent that you can.” That might be a good starting point. What do you think?

Sure, but minimizing harm to the extent possible would mean completely eliminating suffering for an all-powerful being.

• Gary Whittenberger

I think you are correct that an all-powerful being would be able to eliminate all suffering and perhaps a perfectly moral one would do so.

Do you think my moral principle might be too restrictive? Might it be morally permissible to allow small degrees of suffering, e.g. a skinned-up ankle, but not large degrees, e.g. a broken ankle?

• Greg G.

Does the ankle skinning serve a necessary purpose? If the Almighty could do the purpose without the pain, then it is not necessary to have the pain. It would not be perfectly moral. It would be unnecessarily cruel.

But if we live in an indifferent universe then the pain is necessary to help us learn to be careful. Unnecessary suffering is a collateral effect of the necessity of pain.

• Michael Murray

Ankle skinning in women might serve the purpose of reminding them not to tempt men into damnation by exposing their ankles to them.

• Gary Whittenberger

Maybe the ankle skinning might serve a necessary purpose, i.e. to teach a lesson. Recently, I had an accident in which I fell on a wet deck and broke my ankle and shoulder. This was extremely painful at the time and slightly painful or uncomfortable in the last couple of months. Also, I have been unable to walk and move my arm as before, so I’ve experienced dysfunction as well. I’ve reflected a great deal about this. Why did the accident happen? I have concluded that one reason it happened was because I moved too quickly to get out of the rain. I rushed when I really didn’t need to. So, I’ve learned the lesson that in similar situations in the future “move slowly and deliberately; don’t rush.” But I thought that I could have learned THAT lesson if I had merely skinned my ankle and felt just a little pain. All the additional pain, discomfort, and dysfunction I have experienced was in a sense UNNECESSARY for learning the lesson. If God did exist, I believe that he would have spared me the excess suffering, but maybe allowed the minimal suffering. Does this make sense?

All the excess pain and dysfunction I have experienced is better explained by a godless world. But maybe if there were a world with minimal pain in it, then a god hypothesis might work. What do you think?

• Greg G.

As if an all-powerful god thingy couldn’t come up with a way to get those conclusions into your head without the torture, if those were worthwhile thoughts and conclusions. Why would an all-powerful god thingy make you susceptible to fractured bones?

• Gary Whittenberger

That’s what I am thinking too. God is defined as all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly moral. If he existed, he would have ensured that I learned the right lesson without allowing broken bones, extreme pain, and months of recovery. I would have been quite content with minor pain and a skinned ankle.

• Kodie

Why do you need to be taught by pain how to navigate safely? I mean, you could have slipped and hit your head really hard and fall into a coma, what would be to learn then? Is your lesson – “at least I didn’t die”?

• Gary Whittenberger

No, the lesson would be the same — “Don’t move too quickly when it is raining. Move slowly and deliberately.”

Falling into a coma would have been just as bad or worse.

If God did exist, would he cause people to go into a coma to teach them a lesson like the one I described?

• Kodie

Being that most people are familiar with minor injuries like bruises and small cuts, it doesn’t look too much like anyone learns anything from the close calls, nor do they learn anything from the more serious injuries until it happens to them, and then it’s too late.

• Gary Whittenberger

How much pain and dysfunction does it take for a person to learn a lesson? That’s an interesting empirical question, I think.

“How much pain and dysfunction does it take for a person to learn a lesson? That’s an interesting empirical question, I think.”

But the REAL QUESTION is ‘how much pain and disfunction does a creator DESIGN into it’s creation and WHY?

• Gary Whittenberger

No, it’s not the real question; it’s just another question.

• Greg G.

If an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God existed, people wouldn’t encounter surfaces that were slippery when wet or we would be invulnerable to falls.

• Gary Whittenberger

I tend to agree with you. Or, falls would cause only minor damage, just enough to teach a lesson. Therefore, God does not exist!

• Greg G.

If an omnipotence would not require any sort of pain to teach a lesson so it would not be omnibenevolent to use it. If an omnibenevolence required pain to teach a lesson, then it is not omnipotent.

• Gary Whittenberger

“If an omnipotence would not require any sort of pain to teach a lesson so it would not be omnibenevolent to use it.”

That sounds right to me.

“If an omnibenevolence required pain to teach a lesson, then it is not omnipotent.”

That doesn’t sound right to me. Please explain.

• Greg G.

A benevolent parent takes a child to the doctor for a shot knowing it will cause discomfort. If the parent was omnipotent, the shot would not be necessary so the discomfort would not be necessary either. If the omnipotent parent opted for the discomfort for no reason, then it would prove the parent had a sadistic streak, which means not omnibenevolent.

• Gary Whittenberger

Greg G, you are one of only very few commentators who makes a good effort to be civil, and I appreciate that.

I agree totally with your comment here. If the parent could achieve the same benefit with some other painless method, then the parent would be unethical to authorize the shot. In the case of God, if he existed, he could achieve any goal without implementing suffering since he would be omnipotent.

• TheNuszAbides

theology would be so much easier. who then would waste generations hashing out questions like “how come we can romp around and wreck stuff but we can never be wrecked?” … perhaps the DMBog would design so that only applied Free Will(TM) can bypass Special Human Protection… I think I need Giauz’s help on this one.

“If God did exist, would he cause people to go into a coma to teach them a lesson like the one I described?”

Only if you worship a monster for a God:

• TheMountainHumanist

ahh yes..defining “good.” There’s the rub.

However, I think it is in general true that MOST modern cultures have more or less settled on a rule of thumb set of acceptable morals that seem to transcend culture..mostly revolving around equity and non-harm.

I agree on your principle of non-harm. I think the problem is that humans desire simple binary black/white precepts and life on earth is not binary.

Example: “Lying is wrong” Is it? What if a Nazi asks you if you are hiding Jews in the attic?

• Gary Whittenberger

I think that under the general principle I stated, it might be possible to specify rules with qualifications, e.g. “One person should not lie to another person except to save the life of a person and to…” There are probably exceptions to every rule, but I think we could develop a moral code which would be pretty comprehensive. What do you think?

• Robert Templeton

That’s part of the problem as well. The early Christians ran with the monotheistic determination and enveloped a general consensus around it as if their specific notion of religion was based on some general standard of a superior concept. It has always beguiled me this quick jump from Jesus Christianity to the overarching generalized uber supernatural super-being God in the same sense. To me, there are more philosophies being merged here than most Christians would admit to – but they whole-heartedly don’t protest the merge.

Before Christianity, the Jews had their ‘One nameless God’ who was, basically, better than the other gods (and that there were other gods is quite easily demonstrated in their own religious texts!). But the Christians grabbed the fumble and ran with it way beyond the end-zone (sorry for the football analogy – I admit too much weekend indulgence – please pray for me and forgive my sins). They took their Christ and turned it into the super-God and their logical argumentation and philosophical meanderings (ontological, epistemological, and otherwise) have been the most boring grandstanding bull since the invention of fire.

They have filled this empty vessel with ever nuance of their imaginations and then have, under fiefdom and war, forced it to be true or else for centuries. That it is finally started to crumble under the scrutiny of reality and scientific observations gives me great pleasure.

• Gary Whittenberger

Perfect goodness is a part of the definition of God. The argument presented by Unwin is about God, not about any old god.

• TheMountainHumanist

Ahh so the Abrahamic God?

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, the Abrahamic god. About 4 billion of the world’s 7.5 billion people (53%) believe that this god exists!

• Greg G.

Minus all the “ground of all being” types.

• Gary Whittenberger

I’m not including those types in the 53%. They would be less than 1%.

• Grimlock

I read a short paper by, I think, Paul Draper where he made a good case for why the initial probability for theism should be low. It went something like this…

We consider two factors the only relies on conceptual analysis:
1) Internal consistency/coherence. Whether something makes sense, basically.
2) The ontology. How much stuff the position in question claims exists.

For the first part, there are obvious problems with the conceptions of god that Christians use. So right out of the gate, they’re in trouble. This is tricky to quantify, so let’s just leave it in the back of our minds.

The second part is fun. Consider three options:
(I) The physical exists, and if the mental exists, then it depends on the physical for its existence.
(II) The mental exists, and if the physical exists, then it depends on the mental for its existence.
(III) Other.

Options (I) and (II) posit as much as each other, and are equal with respect to the second category. But note that theism is a tiny subset of (I), while atheism is all of (II), a lot of (III), and also a significant subset of (I).

It therefore follows from our initial two criteria that the initial epistemic probability of atheism is many times greater than that of theism. In other words, the initial probability for Yahweh should be waaaay less than, oh I dunno, like 0.1.

• Joe

In Unwin’s defense, at least he didn’t assign D=10 for every category, like some would.

Still, shouldn’t a “necessary being” have a P of 1.0 and nothing less?

• Grimlock

To play the devil’s advocate, there is a difference between the actual existence or non-existence of some object, and to what extent we can we can be confident of its existence.

Presumably we are now talking about the latter, which I think can be termed the epistemic probability.

• Joe

there is a difference between the actual existence or non-existence of some object, and to what extent we can we can be confident of its existence.

I agree with this, but in my experience Christian apologists don’t like to acknowledge probabilities for their pet beliefs. Only certainties. Unwin might be an honest theist who only believes due to faith, but there are plenty of others who give their God an unassailable ontological presence, and start their arguments from there.

• Grimlock

Oh, I agree. The same issue, I think, is that apologists does not like to acknowledge potential weaknesses in their arguments. Just once I’d love to see an apologist present the Kalam argument and go, “Oh by the way, this whole thing depends on the A-theory of time, which is dismissed by both most philosophers specializing in that area and most physicists.”

But so far, no luck…

• RichardSRussell

GIGO

• Chuck Johnson

Decades ago, Christians would not have indulged in such tawdry stunts.
It’s a sign of The End Times.

• Well, heck, what isn’t?

• epeeist

Or my favourite, the god of the free-floating sentient gas bags on an unnamed planet in IOK-1. There is no reason to suppose that we have identified all possible gods, nor which of them (if any) is the proper one hence ceteris paribus we should not favour any particular god over any other.

Given this I think your prior (D = .001) is way too high.

In other words, to get a reasonable posterior probability we are going to have a really low probability for the alternative hypothesis, or to put it another way, it is an extraordinary claim and requires extraordinary evidence. I don’t see that any of his categories fall into the class of “extraordinary evidence”.

• Gary Whittenberger

To begin the analysis of Zeus we should start with a probability of .5, just like with the analysis of God. Unwin was correct on this starting assumption.

• Greg G.

Then you end up with a thousands of possible gods, but the total probability of each cannot exceed 1.0 (100%) so you have to divide by the total number. Plus, the existence of evil and suffering must be factored in so the existence of bad gods should have greater probability than a good god.

• Gary Whittenberger

I think that is the wrong approach. I think we have to evaluate the existence of each god, one at a time. Either each exists or it does not exist. It is possible for some gods to exist at the same time.

• Greg G.

But you still can’t take the sum of the probabilities of each god. You have to subtract the possibility of the overlap. If I roll two dice, what are the chances of getting at least one six? It one in six for each die but double sixes count as one hit for the probability but two in the hits for each die. There are 36 possible combinations that can be rolled but only 11 of them have at least one six. You have to subtract the one in 36 chance of double sixes from the probability to keep from counting it twice.

• Gary Whittenberger

But still the probability of a single die coming up six is .166…, and the probability of a single coin coming up heads is .5, and the probability of a single god existing (before any evidence is collected) is .5.

Unlike the rolling of dice or the flipping of coins, the probabilities of different gods existing may not be independent. For example, suppose we have god X in whose definition it is said “the only god that exists.” If god X exists, then no other gods exist. In Christianity, at least three gods are supposed to exist — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The angels may be considered gods also. So, the situation can become rather complex.

I think each god has to be investigated by itself, leaving out whether other gods might exist. Start with a definition. Then a hypothesis. Then an investigation involving the collection of data. I think Unwin was correct with his proposal of .5 as the starting default probability for God.

• Greg G.

I think Unwin was correct with his proposal of .5 as the starting default probability for God.

I agree with that. But the next steps are to consider whether we have any knowledge of anything like a it and whether it is contrived to be untestable. Consider the prospect of civilizations in distant galaxies. We do have examples of civilizations right here on earth so the first hurdle should be high. We have no way to detect them because any signals they may have sent within the last billion years haven’t reached us yet. So that lowers the second hurdle but it is still testable for nearer galaxies and could still be detected so that would not be as low it would be for gods.

• Gary Whittenberger

I think we are in agreement here.

God is defined as an intelligent agent. We have gathered much knowledge of intelligent agents. The more God is hypothesized to be different from the intelligent agents we know to exist, the less likely God is to exist.

Although I think it is correct to begin with a default probability of .5 for God, after investigating the God hypothesis, I think the end probability is near 0.

• MNb

We have gathered exactly zilch knowledge of immaterial/ supernatural/ transcendental intelligent agents. That difference is so huge that the probability becomes close to 0.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, I agree that the probability approaches zero AFTER we do a proper investigation. But the starting concept is coherent — understandable, makes sense.

• MNb

Please explain to me how an immaterial/ supernatural entity interacting with our material/ natural reality is coherent and makes sense.
Because I don’t see it.

• Gary Whittenberger

It is possible that a spiritual entity could interact with a material entity. That is a coherent, understandable, and comprehensible idea. Possible is not the same as real or even probable. We start with what is possible and then investigate.

If God exists, then we should see evidence that this spiritual entity has interacted with material reality, right?

• Greg G.

It is possible that a spiritual entity could interact with a material entity.

That is ambiguous. If you are saying that a spiritual entity can interact with the material, then explain how. If your are saying you do not know that it is impossible for a spiritual entity to interact with the material, then don’t equivocate with that sort of phrasing as many people confuse themselves that way. If you don’t know whether something is possible, say that, rather than “it is possible” or “it is possible that it is possible” when it may well be impossible.

You cannot even begin to make the assessment until you can distinguish a spiritual entity from a concept of a spiritual entity, which would involve a spiritual entity interacting with the material.

• Gary Whittenberger

I am saying that it is possible or plausible that a spiritual entity could interact with a material entity. I don’t need to explain how because I am not asserting that it actually happens. Are you asserting that it is impossible? If so, then defend that position.

A concept is not the entity itself. For example, a concept of a dog is not any dog in particular. The hypothesis here is that there exists a spiritual entity which interacts with material entities. It is only hypothetical at this point. It requires further investigation.

• Greg G.

I am saying that it is possible

Define what you mean when you use the word “possible” in this context. Are you saying it is actually possible or are you saying that you have no idea whether it is possible or impossible so it might be possible? If you say “it is possible”, then you have the burden of proof. If you mean that there is a possibility do to ignorance, rephrase it without words that imply “it is possible.”

The ancient philosophers realized there was a problem with how a spiritual being could interact with the material world. They may have thought an interaction would taint the spiritual. So they invented the concept of the Logos as an intermediary. I don’t know if that actually solved the problem.

You really don’t know that it is possible for a spirit to interact with the material. Dark matter can only be detected by its gravitational effects as it doesn’t interact with electromagnetism in any way. We know of two nuclear interactions but they are very short range. What would happen to the conservation of energy and conservation of momentum if the spiritual realm interacted?

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: I am saying that it is possible

GG2: Define what you mean when you use the word “possible” in this context. Are you saying it is actually possible or are you saying that you have no idea whether it is possible or impossible so it might be possible? If you say “it is possible”, then you have the burden of proof. If you mean that there is a possibility do to ignorance, rephrase it without words that imply “it is possible.”

GW2: It is possible that if a spiritual substance existed, it could interact with a material substance. I mean it is logically and metaphysically possible. It could happen. In all possible worlds, there could be a world in which a spiritual substance interacted with material substance. Possibility is not probability or necessarily reality. I have no other words to use to explain it to you. It is also possible that a pink unicorn exists.

GG2: The ancient philosophers realized there was a problem with how a spiritual being could interact with the material world. They may have thought an interaction would taint the spiritual. So they invented the concept of the Logos as an intermediary. I don’t know if that actually solved the problem.

GW2: Think of it as analogous to dark matter (which was once unknown) interacting with regular matter (which has been known for a long time).

GG2: You really don’t know that it is possible for a spirit to interact with the material.

GW2: Sure I know it is logically and metaphysically possible. How do you not know this? Or maybe you can prove that it is impossible?

GG2: Dark matter can only be detected by its gravitational effects as it doesn’t interact with electromagnetism in any way. We know of two nuclear interactions but they are very short range.

GW2: See things do interact, some of which we previously had no knowledge.

GG2: What would happen to the conservation of energy and conservation of momentum if the spiritual realm interacted?

GW2: I don’t know. If God did exist, he would have created the regularities in nature, and he could disrupt them or change them if he wished. Look, I’m not claiming that God exists. I’m an atheist. But I just think that some of the atheist objections are not valid. They try to limit possibilities rather than focus on probabilities.

• MNb

You just proclaiming that it’s coherent etc. doesn’t make it so.
Thanks for your not-explanation. I appreciate it; it suggests you can’t and that the concept a priori incoherent and meaningless indeed, a bit like a square circle.

• Gary Whittenberger

You just proclaiming that it’s incoherent etc. doesn’t make it so.

The definition of God which I have presented is reliable, coherent, understandable, meaningful, plausible, and possible. I have yet to read an objection to it which I think is valid. I am an atheist and yet I must be onto something because most of the persons of the Abrahamic faiths with whom I have talked agree with me on the definition, and I predict that we’d find the same thing if we did a valid scientific survey.

I do not agree with the atheists who say that the concept of God is meaningless. I agree with the theists who say it is meaningful. I just don’t think it exists.

• Ignorant Amos

You just proclaiming that it’s incoherent etc. doesn’t make it so.

You have been shown why it is incoherent, you just choose to ignore it.

http://www.humanreligions.info/god_is_impossible.html#Omniscience

The definition of God which I have presented is reliable, coherent, understandable, meaningful, plausible, and possible.

No it is not.

I have yet to read an objection to it which I think is valid.

That is not our problem, it’s yours.

I am an atheist and yet I must be onto something because most of the persons of the Abrahamic faiths with whom I have talked agree with me on the definition, and I predict that we’d find the same thing if we did a valid scientific survey.

That you are an atheist, or claim to be anyway, means fuck all. Atheists are not immune to being fuckwits. There has been a few on here just recently. You think you are onto something because believers agree on your incoherent definition of God and you think that makes your definition meaningful? You think that makes sense? Seriously?

A scientific survey of who?

I do not agree with the atheists who say that the concept of God is meaningless.

Who gives a shit? Until you give a workable concept of God that fits with what the believers believe and is coherent, that’s where we are.

I agree with the theists who say it is meaningful.

Who cares? Until you and they can demonstrate what is meaningful about it, and the method you use, these assertions can be dismissed as your asinine musings.

The argument is that the common phrases used to define “God” are meaningless. I’m referring to the phrases “creator of the universe,” “all-knowing,” “all-powerful”, “morally perfect,” “absolute good,” and “atemporal mind.” I know that many people–theists, agnostics, and many atheists–believe that these phrases are meaningful. However, that isn’t reason enough for me to believe it. People are known to think all kinds of nonsense make sense. So, until I see some sense in these expressions, I have no choice but to take the position of theological noncognitivism.

http://specterofreason.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/two-arguments-for-theological.html

I just don’t think it exists.

Why?

• Gary Whittenberger

Amos, you’ve lost your temper in a disagreement and you’ve slipped into a variety of uncivil communications. Would you like to restate your points while leaving out the incivility?

• Ignorant Amos

Why? It’d be a waste of my time and you’d just find some other excuse to avoid the points that are pertinent to the discussion.

• TheNuszAbides

as per the usual G.W. it doesn’t even matter if a tone-troll derailment is unavailable – he resists taking any substantive criticism on board; as a result, all of his counter-counter-argumentation amounts to re-asserting what he started with. he seems to think that his clunky ‘chain of response’ format helpfully formalizes and clarifies context, but I have never found it worth slogging through because he only ever circles back to the same thoroughly-contested junk he already asserted. without anything remotely resembling a successful refutation of the contest. ever.

• Susan

Seriously?

His points were clear. He said “fuck” and “shit” and You think that’s reason to dismiss his comment?

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, Susan, seriously. His remarks were clearly uncivil communications which are unhelpful, counter-productive, selfish, and unethical. I am confident that he could restate his points and leave out the incivility. Why are you now enabling this kind of communication? Please stand up for civility.

• Ignorant Amos

As it happens, you think you are being civil. While I do not. Your tone trolling in an attempt at avoiding the details is duly noted.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/3d/06/78/3d067847e20306101b7eb415c0b226e4.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/jaUuA67.png

• Gary Whittenberger

Amos, you’ve lost your temper in a disagreement and you’ve slipped into a variety of uncivil communications. Would you like to restate your points while leaving out the incivility?

• MNb

And of course the expert on issuing decrees also thinks himself the utter authority on what constitues civility.
Your attitude is very uncivil, unhelpful, counter-productive, selfish and unethical when you think properly about it – it only serves as a mask to hide frustration and unwillingness to reconsider, let alone alter your own attitude.

• Gary Whittenberger

See, now you aren’t talking about about the original issue at all. You are just communicating uncivilly. Your posts have devolved into the gutter.

• Susan

Yes, Suan, seriously.

Because he said “fuck and shit”? I was hoping you’d provide a more grownup explanation.

His remarks were clearly uncivil.

His entire post addressed the problems with your approach. Your failure to address that is uncivil. If he just said “fuck off” or “what a bunch of shit”, you’d have a case. Instead, you dismiss a thorough response because he used words that you don’t approve of?

There was nothing uncivil there.

Why are you enabling this kind of communication?

Because it’s substantial. Yours, on the other hand, hasn’t been.

I do.

IA’s civility is apparent and yours is still lacking.

Empty assertions are not civil.

• Ignorant Amos

Gary thinks civility is all about the kind of language one uses, but then we have all seen that he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does.

Civility is the action of working together productively to reach a common goal, and often with beneficent purposes. Some definitions conflate civility with politeness, which suggests disengaging with others so as not to offend (“roll over and play dead”…). The notion of positively constructive civility suggests robust, even passionate, engagement framed in respect of differing views.

He’s just a tone troll that plays that particular card when he has nothing else. He looks the fool, not me, he’s a gift.

• Gary Whittenberger

Susan, I believe you are excusing or enabling uncivil communications. Please don’t do that. Stand up for civility!

If a comment contains an uncivil remark, some good responses are:
1. Point it out immediately. Call it out. Criticize it.
2. Join others in doing #1.
3. Ask or require the offender to restate his comment while leaving out the uncivil remark.
4. Don’t reply to the entire comment.
5. If the uncivil remark is part of a series of similar uncivil remarks, then just end communication with the offender altogether.
6. File a complaint with the moderator.
The best response depends on the situation.

I think you are confusing an uncivil remark with a lack of a response. They are not the same thing.

Why should I waste my time engaging in discussion with a person who insists on continuing to make uncivil remarks when I can spend my time productively with people who don’t do this?

• MNb

BWAHAHAHAHA!
Have you exposed yourself.

“I can spend my time productively”
What’s the proper reaction to someone who, like you, systematically refuses to participate in a productive discussion by endlessly repeating his mantras, ignoring everything brought up against them and never applies his 6 points advise to himself? If it’s not a wholeheartedly “fuck off”?

“I think you are confusing an uncivil remark with a lack of a response. They are not the same thing.”
If that’s the case the latter is even more uncivil.

• Kodie

Basic netiquette – lurk first. You don’t like it here. You feel free to assert whatever bizarre shit you want, and then tell people who talk to you they need to tone it down or you’re not going to have a conversation with them. Guess what, Gare! Nobody wants to have this conversation with you that badly.

• Michael Neville

Tone trolling will win you no points on this blog. If you don’t like how adults speak then you have two choices, either ignore the words that give you the vapors or you can leave. Whichever you do, however, don’t whine about people using words that make you go all flittery.

• MNb

“The definition of God which I have presented is reliable, coherent, understandable, meaningful, plausible, and possible.”
You just proclaiming this doesn’t make it so.
Merely repeating your error does not anything to remedy it.

“I have yet to read an objection to it”
Either you lack comprehensive reading skills (because I gave an objection you refuse to address)

“which I think is valid.”
or you are not capable of repeating your mistakes ad nauseam. Again, you just proclaiming something invalid doesn’t make it so.
Perhaps both.

“most of the persons of the Abrahamic faiths with whom I have talked agree with me on the definition,”
BWAHAHAHAHA!
Of course. An abrahamist who admits that their god concept is incoherent has to admit that his faith is unreasonable. Actually quite a few do (Kierkegaard being one of the first) but they tend to lose interest discussing these things. Discussions only make sense when there is at least a pretense of reason.

“and I predict that we’d find the same thing if we did a valid scientific survey”
BWAHAHAHAHA!
While you reject the mathematical and philosophical meaning of coherence and have made up one yourself.
Yeah, sure.
Oh wait – you’ve made up your own definition of “valid” as well, so you have made sure that the a priori probability that your prediction comes true is 1.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “The definition of God which I have presented is reliable, coherent, understandable, meaningful, plausible, and possible.”

M2: You just proclaiming this doesn’t make it so.

GW2: But I’ve given many good reasons in support of my assertion.

M2: Merely repeating your error does not anything to remedy it.

GW2: I haven’t made an error or you haven’t yet persuaded me that I have made an error.

GW1: “I have yet to read an objection to it”

M2: Either you lack comprehensive reading skills (because I gave an objection you refuse to address)

GW2: Please don’t split my sentences; that’s unethical. I have excellent reading skills and I’ve addressed all your objections. You just don’t agree with my rebuttals.

GW1: “which I think is valid.”

M2: or you are not capable of repeating your mistakes ad nauseam. Again, you just proclaiming something invalid doesn’t make it so. Perhaps both.

GW2: Please don’t split my sentences; that’s unethical. I don’t believe I’ve made any mistakes in my discussion with you.

GW1: “most of the persons of the Abrahamic faiths with whom I have talked agree with me on the definition,”

M2: BWAHAHAHAHA!

GW2: Your emotional outburst is not an argument.

M2: Of course. An abrahamist who admits that their god concept is incoherent has to admit that his faith is unreasonable. Actually quite a few do (Kierkegaard being one of the first) but they tend to lose interest discussing these things. Discussions only make sense when there is at least a pretense of reason.

GW2: Most theists, agnostics, and theists with whom I have talked agree with me on the definition.

GW1: “and I predict that we’d find the same thing if we did a valid scientific survey”

M2: BWAHAHAHAHA!

GW2: Once again, your emotional outburst is not an argument. Up till this post, your talk has been relevant and appropriate, but it is starting to devolve.

M2: While you reject the mathematical and p hilosophical meaning of coherence and have made up one yourself. Yeah, sure.

GW2: Those aren’t even sentences.

M2: Oh wait – you’ve made up your own definition of “valid” as well, so you have made sure that the a priori probability that your prediction comes true is 1.

GW2: Especially in philosophical discussions, it is very important that we define our terms, and that is what I have tried to do. Sorry that you don’t like or agree with some of my definitions. I agree with Unwin (and I think Stenger also) that starting with a .5 probability for the existence of God is correct.

• TheNuszAbides

I have yet to read an objection to it which I think is valid.

yes, we’re quite familiar with your (a) inflated opinion of your assertions and (b) obstinate, never-edifying resistance to critique.

“If God exists, then we should see evidence that this spiritual entity has interacted with material reality, right?”

And we see none

• Gary Whittenberger

If we saw none, then we’d be justified in concluding that God does not exist. I am an atheist. I am not claiming that God exists. I am claiming that God could possibly exist. If God did exist, the world would look much different than it does.

” If God did exist, the world would look much different than it does.”

So you are claiming God does not exist, about time.

• Gary Whittenberger

Of course I am claiming God does not exist! I claim it when it’s relevant in the discussion.

“It is possible that a spiritual entity could interact with a material entity.”

HOW is it possible?

• Gary Whittenberger

• TheNuszAbides

After finishing a half cup of coffee, I have changed my mind

did you mean 4 ounces of coffee, a small receptacle half-filled with coffee, or half of a quantity of coffee that had been sufficient to fill a small receptacle? if the third, finishing it off could change everything.

• Greg G.

OK, it was half a mug. The mug holds what Mr. Coffee says is 2 cups. So I drank what normal people call a cup.

• TheNuszAbides

sometimes i just have to hold your feet to the percolator.

• Greg G.

I reject most religions because they make unsubstantiated claims but I reject many religions because they forbid coffee.

• Greg G.

After drinking a little coffee, I have changed my mind. If I have a lottery ticket, I could say that it has a .5 chance of winning, because it is either a winner or a loser. I think that is an absurd starting point. When I find out how the lottery works, I can calculate the odds of the ticket being a winner, but then when I multiply it out with the initial .5 assumption, the Bayesian conclusion would be half the odds.

The proper way would be to assign a value of 1.0 then multiply that by the other factors.

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree. Either the ticket you hold is a winning ticket or it is not. Without any other information, the odds are .5 that you hold a winning ticket. Acquiring knowledge of how the lottery works will enable you to revise the odds.

• Herald Newman

Without more information about the lottery, claiming the odds are .5 is nothing more than a wild stab in the dark, and a completely ignorant position to hold. Such a position requires assumption that I do not see how you can be justified in making.

My position is that just holding a lottery ticket tells you nothing about the chance that it’s a winning one.

• Greg G.

That is what I am saying, too. You apply your level of knowledge vs ignorance factors first. If you have none, then you can set it at 0.5. It just makes the math meaningless to start with 0.5 because you have to multiply a bunch of numbers between 0 and 1 inclusive to get a number that is between 0 and 1. But starting with a 0.5 factor makes an absolute certainty 50%.

• Gary Whittenberger

HN: Without more information about the lottery, claiming the odds are .5 is nothing more than a wild stab in the dark, and a completely ignorant position to hold. Such a position requires assumption that I do not see how you can be justified in making.

GW: I partly disagree. It is the justified assumption to make before additional evidence is collected about the lottery.

HN: My position is that just holding a lottery ticket tells you nothing about the chance that it’s a winning one.

GW: My position is that just holding a lottery ticket tells you that it is either the winning ticket or it is not. Knowing nothing else, it is justified at that point to assume that your chances of having the winning ticket are .5.

• It is not a justified assumption. It is an unsubstantiated assertion.

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree. As a default starting assumption it is justified since either God exists or he doesn’t. Those are the two logical possibilities.

• epeeist

As a default starting assumption it is justified since either God exists or he doesn’t. Those are the two logical possibilities.

As a starting assumptions unicorns (or crocoducks) exist or do not exist. Are you going to to give both possibilities equal probabilities?

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, of course I am. The same reasons apply. Without collecting any evidence, we set the default probability that a unicorn exists at .5. The logical possibilities are it exists vs. it doesn’t. Not a problem.

• epeeist

Without collecting any evidence, we set the default probability that a unicorn exists at .5.

But the Bayesian priors are meant to include background knowledge, for an hypothesis and its alternate we can write:

P(H|E.B) = P(H|B).P(E|H.B) / (P(H|B).P(E|H.B) + P(~H|B).P(E|~H.B))

Where B is the background knowledge. For unicorns and crocoducks we have the background knowledge derived from the theory of evolution which would reduce the prior probability of their existence.

• Gary Whittenberger

Before any investigation, there is no background knowledge. We start from a position of neutrality.

• epeeist

Before any investigation, there is no background knowledge.

But how do we do an investigation with no background knowledge of how to carry out such a thing or how one should draw conclusions?

We start from a position of neutrality.

Well that is very Lockeian of you, but his idea of tabula rasa went long ago.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: Before any investigation, there is no background knowledge.

EP2: But how do we do an investigation with no background knowledge of how to carry out such a thing or how one should draw conclusions?

GW2: That’s a different kind of background knowledge — the knowledge of or skill at rational thinking. For a new question with a naive subject, we start with no background knowledge relevant to the question, in this case God.

GW1: We start from a position of neutrality.

EP2: Well that is very Lockeian of you, but his idea of tabula rasa went long ago.

GW2: This has nothing to do with tabula rasa. This has to do with hypothesis testing, starting points, minimizing bias, etc.

• epeeist

That’s a different kind of background knowledge — the knowledge of or skill at rational thinking.

So you are saying that we do start with background knowledge, one type of which you will allow but another type of which you will disallow. Do you have a decision criterion for what you will put in each category? Which category does this criterion fit into?

This has to do with hypothesis testing, starting points, minimizing bias, etc.

All hypotheses contain background assumptions. As it is your supposed attempt at “minimizing bias” looks like bias to me in that it disallows empirical knowledge that we already have.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: That’s a different kind of background knowledge — the knowledge of or skill at rational thinking.

E2: So you are saying that we do start with background knowledge, one type of which you will allow but another type of which you will disallow. Do you have a decision criterion for what you will put in each category? Which category does this criterion fit into?

GW2: It’s not only what I will allow, but what these frameworks or their inventors allow. The existence of God is a question which should be explored within the framework of reason and can be explored within the framework of Bayes Theorem, which we are doing here.

GW1: This has to do with hypothesis testing, starting points, minimizing bias, etc.

E2: All hypotheses contain background assumptions. As it is your supposed attempt at “minimizing bias” looks like bias to me in that it disallows empirical knowledge that we already have.

GW2: No, it allows evidence to be introduced after establishing the default starting probability at .5.

• Ignorant Amos

GW2: It’s not only what I will allow, but what these frameworks or their inventors allow. The existence of God is a question which should be explored within the framework of reason and can be explored within the framework of Bayes Theorem, which we are doing here.

You aren’t.

GW2: No, it allows evidence to be introduced after establishing the default starting probability at .5.

And that confirms you haven’t a clue what you are talking about. There is no such thing as the “default” starting probability in BT, unless they are statistical facts based on knowns, such as a 6 in the throw of a dice, or the toss of a coin.

The prior probability that the claim I have a 14 year old black VW Polo in my garage, is not the same as for the claim that I have an intergalactic space ship. Can you not work out why?

• Gary Whittenberger

We’ve been over these points. I see no hope that you will persuade me or I will persuade you on this issue. I think you are mistaken, and you think I am mistaken.

• Greg G.

For what it’s worth, I think you are mistaken and that IA is not mistaken.

• Gary Whittenberger

That’s fine. We aren’t going to agree on everything. I do appreciate it that, unlike others, you stay away from uncivil communications.

That’s fine, you stay away from uncivil dishonesty.

• Otto

Watch out Greg, apparently when Gary congratulates someone on being uncivil he turns into an asshole.

“I see no hope that you will persuade me or I will persuade you on this issue.”

Not at all surprising

• Ignorant Amos

I don’t think you are mistaken, I know you are mistaken…or just being stupid at this stage.

And it ain’t me who is being mistaken, it is all those Bayesian’s that understand how the theorem is applied that you think you know better than that are mistaken. They’re not, you are just being stupid.

And since you think you know better than the experts and won’t admit it, or be persuaded by the evidence, you are epitomising the Dunning/Kruger effect.

But we HAVE background knowledge:

• Gary Whittenberger

To be considered after we set the starting probability at .5.

https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dea85450458f22aaddb82ffecd2da5be24a3044a1095d85bbe954278e8f8dedb.jpg No, we already have data, so it is not 50-50, there are claims, so again no where near 50-50 starting point.

But we HAVE background knowledge:

We dont need to start BEFORE any investigation, there is plenty of evidence already:

• Ignorant Amos

Too late. You have already supplied background knowledge when you said “he” and big “G” god, along with that list of attributes you supplied.

You’ve already agreed that when a pair of dice are thrown, a six will show, or it will not. That is a 50/50 proposition. But it would be stupid to start there because our prior knowledge of two dice means we know things about dice ahead of time that effect the probability of a six. Even one dice wouldn’t be 50/50 due to prior knowledge about dice.

Background knowledge is not the prior knowledge we know about dice, it is anything that is likely to effect the prior knowledge probability of a dice coming up a six. For example. A dice coming up six has a probability of 1 in 6, or 16.667%, not 50%…but lets say we are throwing a dice in a nefarious establishment whose antics can effect the odds. Say weighted dice. That is background knowledge that will effect the odds.

The coin toss is another example. We start with prior knowledge of a just coin. Two sides with different makings. The odds are indeed 50/50 that flipping the coin will result in one side or the other showing. Background knowledge is what will effect the status quo, such as finding out the coin is not just, but has two sides the same…or that the person flipping the coin is a grifter who specialises in slight of hand, which will have an impact on the odds.

The problem you are not getting is that the prior probability that big “G” he-God is not 50% probable as a starting point…that’s because you don’t understand Bayes Theorem and prior probabilities.

Prior Probability: What has typically been the case before? In other words, is the claim being defended typical, or unusual, or even highly unusual, or indeed otherwise unprecedented? The more unusual, the lower its prior probability. And the lower its prior probability, the more evidence you need to believe it—according to the Rule of Evidence…

Even if we remove the attributes you have allocated big “G” god, you are still in a world of nonsense with your 0.5 claim…

And of course assuming a 50% prior probability for just a basic god is already grossly illogical, since “supernatural beings” are not typical but extremely rare—in fact unprecedented so far, and therefore, at the start of any honest calculation, they are the least likely explanation of anything. That which you’ve never confirmed before ever to be causing or explaining anything, is the last thing likely to explain anything else you encounter. Honestly, that should be the first thing you ever learn from Bayesian logic.

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11868

Why is this so difficult for you? Is it that you are just a contrarian at heart?

Go away and learn something about the subject you are blathering about and you will look a whole lot less foolish.

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12742

• epeeist

Not denigrating your link, but I find this one to provide a good explanation.

EDIT: Typo

• Ignorant Amos

Thanks. Bookmarked.

I was using Carrier because he is subject specific, and whose work I’m most familiar with, but one can never have too many sources.

• Gary Whittenberger

In this post you have presented a couple of uncivil communications that are completely out of line.

Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.

• Kodie

Rationalizing away why anyone could possibly find you a block of wood to talk to is a lie you tell yourself when you think your argument is great. You are so convinced that it is great that you just keep repeating yourself, sticking your fingers in your ears, and shouting la la la la! Then someone dares to curse at your tender sensitive self, and you blame them. Classic. You suck, your arguments suck, nothing more needs to be said, because I already told you, and you ignored it and just keep repeating like the closet Jesus freak you are. I mean, you pat yourself on the back over how literate or intellectual you think you are, and the rest of us are suffering your giant ego and your lack of fucking sense. Go fuck yourself if you’re going to be a brat because someone used some language that expresses how they really feel. Your argument is dumb, and all you can do is keep repeating yourself. How civil do you think someone should be when you believe your own mantra so well you can’t hear anyone else.

• Gary Whittenberger

This whole post is just a collection of uncivil communications of various types. You’ve gone completely off topic.

Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.

“Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.”

• Kodie

I didn’t go off topic. You had accused me of evading your question, which I answered but you are too full of yourself to read. You want a different answer? You make perfect sense in that the message itself is not misunderstood. It’s just garbage for the various reasons I and everyone else has already told you. You’re not having a two-way conversation, and I take that as your hostile intent. Double down, dig in, and now get offended that people aren’t agreeing with you, but I don’t lack an argument. I lack an intelligent and engaged interlocutor – GW is just so in love with his argument that he wants to talk to himself! I don’t have the patience to listen to you say the same stupid thing over and over again. You are rationalizing why people get to the end of their patience with you and so you have to pass the blame, but you either cannot read, or refuse to read.

• TheNuszAbides

Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.

you are never going to be able to establish that as true. so give up the pearl-clutching nonsense already, and address the actual points made. not holding my breath, as usual, since even when your Civility Standards are met, you demonstrate no ability to take critique on board and actually deal with it. sure, it’s apparent that you think that (or at least posture as though) you deal with it – but all you ever seem to do is dismiss it out of hand. those who are paying attention make note of this. apparently you are banking on persuading those who aren’t paying attention that you are sharing something genuinely interesting with the world.

• MNb

Impossible. As soon as you use a word there is background knowledge.

• Ignorant Amos

Gary doesn’t understand the difference between prior probability and background knowledge, or how it is used in the equation.

• epeeist

As soon as you use a word there is background knowledge.

No such thing as a private language.

• TheNuszAbides

A: “Shibboleth!”

B: “Gesundheit!”

• Gary Whittenberger

Possible. You are distorting the approach of Unwin and Bayes here. Of course, there is some background knowledge in a general sense. For example, there is background knowledge of the meanings of words in the definition of God. But that is not the kind of background knowledge that Unwin, Bayes, and I are referring to. We are referring to background knowledge relevant to the existence of God. So we might need to define the first as background knowledge X and the second as background knowledge Y. We should set the probability at .5 and then consider relevant background knowledge Y — the evidence for and against the existence of God, and then readjust the probability, according to Bayes’ equation.

I think it would help if you actually read Unwin’s book.

But there has already been investigation, to start NOW from a position of neutrality is DISHONEST.

• Kodie

It’s not the same as flipping a coin. You really want so bad for it to be true.

• Gary Whittenberger

We must start with the same assumption. In both cases, before knowing anything else, we must assume a .5 probability of winning.

We both want our positions to be correct, but what does wanting have to do with it? I don’t think it has anything to do with it. At the outset some people want God to exist and some want God not to exist. So what? It’s irrelevant.

• Kodie

Just because there are only 2 possibilities doesn’t mean they have equal probability.

• Gary Whittenberger

They must be assigned equal probability BEFORE you learn anything about the particular lottery you are in.

If you read Unwin’s book, he may be better able to explain why you start at .5 than I am able to explain it. But it seems obvious to me now.

• Kodie

It sounds like poor logic.

• Gary Whittenberger

I may sound that way to you, but is is good logic.

” As a default starting assumption it is justified since either God
exists or he doesn’t. Those are the two logical possibilities.”

No, it is MOST likely God, like all Gods’ are products of man’s IMAGINATION

• Gary Whittenberger

You are just adding new information to be considered in adjusting the probability downward. This does not change the initial probability of .5. Believers might add new information to be considered in adjusting the probability upward.

Our initial probably CANNOT be .5.

• Herald Newman

I partly disagree. It is the justified assumption to make before additional evidence is collected about the lottery.

Without knowing more, you cannot even claim that the ticket can win, let alone has a .5 chance of winning! You may in fact hold a ticket that has already been claimed, or the ticket may be a forgery.

Your assumption is unjustified! Even if I told you that you definitely hold a valid lottery ticket with some chance to win, you have 0 justification to say that your chances are therefore 50%

• Gary Whittenberger

When you truthfully say “this is a lottery ticket for a lottery to be held tomorrow” we know right off the bat that it is either a winning ticket or not. Therefore, the probability of winning is set to .5 at this point.

I disagree with you. My assumption is justified for the reasons I have already given. It looks like we aren’t going to reach any agreement on this issue.

It is possible that there are only two tickets in the lottery, one the winner and one the loser. If we came to know this, then we wouldn’t need to adjust the .5 probability.

• Herald Newman

This is the kind of daftness that leads people to believe that God is likely. You look like your committing a variation of the “possible, therefore probable” fallacy. Just because it’s possible you hold a winning ticket doesn’t justify that it will win, or that it’s likely to win. You’ve jumped to an unreasonable conclusion because of naive assumptions.

Following this kind of logic I can justify acting, and remaining, naive. Just become ignorant, buy tickets in a bunch of lotteries, and then say there’s a .5 chance I’ll win in each one of them. At worst, how bad can it be? An idiot is justified in buying a bunch of expensive lottery tickets, because either they win, or they don’t, right?

Anyways, I’m pretty much done with you. Enjoy.

• Gary Whittenberger

No, this is not daftness, but reason in action. No, I am not committing any variation of the “possible, therefore probable” fallacy. We should start with the default probability of .5, then conduct a rational investigation and revise our probability estimate according to our findings. After we conduct the investigation, either in the case of the lottery or God, we are probably going to revise our probability estimate downward. At least I have. My assumptions are valid, not naive. I believe you are starting with an unsatisfactory assumption.

My default assumption of .5 probability is correct, whether it is offered by an idiot or a genius. You are presenting a red herring because you are assuming that there is no investigation following the initial estimate.

You are welcome to continue or quit. I agree to disagree.

• Kodie

You are also making up the condition that you know nothing else, not even the drastic odds against winning the lottery. If I know nothing else, how does the possibility of there being a god even enter into it. The only thing we ever hear about god is from other people, so assuming I don’t have their testimony, how am I to suppose there’s a 50% probability of a thing I didn’t imagine in the first place.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, you should start a proper investigation by assuming that you know nothing else. Start the investigation by taking the stance of a naive subject or an alien. Think like an alien who might know almost nothing about the Earth and its people.

Somebody makes a claim that God exists. That’s how you become interested. You then ask them to define what “God” is. And then you make the default .5 assumption.

• Kodie

So, if you have a powerball ticket, the odds of winning even the easiest prize of \$4 with one powerball number and drawing no other numbers is 1 in 38.32. Your ignorance of that fact doesn’t change the odds of holding a ticket that might win you some money. What you guess beforehand, that it’s either a winner or not, is irrelevant. A small probability is still a probability, but what you are doing is counting yourself out of statistics and only counting yourself as the data. If you regularly buy lottery tickets, and regularly never win, your odds of winning next week are not counted against your own losses as a better probability. The way you are thinking about this idea is as though you think you are the only lottery player, or that if there are only 2 lottery players, one will win and one will lose, even though that’s not usually how lotteries work.

• Gary Whittenberger

You’ve just provided new information which is useful to adjust the initial default probability from .5. So what? It doesn’t change what should be the default even one iota.

• Joe

Therefore, the probability of winning is set to .5 at this point.

No, the odds are the same from the start. Your understanding would be that the odds are 0.5, but the odds are independent of what you know or believe.

That may sound like I’m being patronizing, but hopefully it will help you see the distinction here.

• Gary Whittenberger

The ticket holder can’t assume the position of an omniscient being here. From his perspective, he is correct to think “either I have the winning ticket or I don’t” as a starting assumption, therefore the .5 probability is appropriate, WITHOUT KNOWING ANYTHING ELSE.

Your comment didn’t sound patronizing to me. I just think it is mistaken.

• Kodie

No it isn’t. It’s either the winning ticket, but it’s probably not.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes it is. It is either the winning ticket or it is not. This is the correct default position before you know anything about the particular lottery. If you find out that there is only one ticket in the lottery and you are holding it, then you adjust the probability to 1.0, right?

• Joe

You just aren’t seeing the picture. The error here is one of semantics, which are complicated enough so that people like Ray comfort can never get over them.

So you say: “it’s either the winning ticket, or it isn’t.”

When the correct saying would be: “It’s either the winning ticket, or one of the millions of non-winning tickets”

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree. I think that you aren’t seeing the big picture and that your error is conceptual.

You are just suggesting that new information should be collected and the .5 readjusted, based on the new information. Yes, I agree with that.

• Joe

Of course you disagree. That’s why myself and others here are patiently trying to explain to you why we feel you are wrong.

Instead, you seem to think that all of us are wrong.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, I think I’ve made the better case. The majority is not always right. In this case I think it is not.

“Yes, I think I’ve made the better case.”

But you havent made the better case.

Joe makes a much better case: When the correct saying would be: “It’s either the winning ticket, or one of the millions of non-winning tickets”

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, I have made the better case, better than the one you have made.

You havent made a case at all, just an IGNORANT CLAIM,

“based on the new information. ”

We already have CENTURIES of information, and TRILLIONS of God claims.

No two people imagine God the same
And YOUR equation is for one God, one person, so your math should be 0.5/4,500,000,000

• Gary Whittenberger

No, you havent given a good answer to this.

” It is the justified assumption to make before additional evidence is collected about the lottery.”

but the odds of winning are already statistically KNOWN.

So claiming .5 is UNADULTERATED BLIND FAITH, and dishonest.

• Greg G.

It’s the morning after the drawing but I haven’t checked the numbers. Maybe the ticket is a winner and maybe it is not. But if you start with .5 and check the numbers to find that they all match, then factor in the possibility of a misprint, instead of 0.99999999 percent chance of having the winning ticket, your method would still say that the odds were 0.499999995 because of your initial meaningless assumption.

I am saying that you start with granting the possibility as 1.0, then apply your levels of ignorance and knowledge to reduce the number. If you have no other knowledge, you give it a 0.5. Adjusting the number to .5 because of complete ignorance is the last step. Remember that what you end up with is a product of every factor. Starting at 0.5 keeps even near absolute certainty below 0.5 and absolute certainty at exactly 0.5 with no possibility of getting it any higher because no factor can be above 1.0.

• Gary Whittenberger

GG: It’s the morning after the drawing but I haven’t checked the numbers. Maybe the ticket is a winner and maybe it is not. But if you start with .5 and check the numbers to find that they all match, then factor in the possibility of a misprint, instead of 0.99999999 percent chance of having the winning ticket, your method would still say that the odds were 0.499999995 because of your initial meaningless assumption.

GW: The proper starting assumption is still .5. Talking about a misprint is the equivalent of collecting new information to alter the Bayes calculation.

GG: I am saying that you start with granting the possibility as 1.0, then apply your levels of ignorance and knowledge to reduce the number. If you have no other knowledge, you give it a 0.5. Adjusting the number to .5 because of complete ignorance is the last step. Remember that what you end up with is a product of every factor. Starting at 0.5 keeps even near absolute certainty below 0.5 and absolute certainty at exactly 0.5 with no possibility of getting it any higher because no factor can be above 1.0.

GW: And I am saying that you (should) start with a .5 probability and then collect evidence to alter the number. Yes, if you have no other knowledge you start with .5; this is the first step, not the last step. Imagine that you give a lottery ticket to an Australian native in the wild who knows nothing about lotteries and you tell the guy “I am giving you a lottery ticket. Tomorrow you can exchange this ticket for a thousand pigs or not.” With no other information about the lottery, the native is justified in calculating his odds of winning a thousand pigs at .5. The native knows what a lottery is, but he does not know how this particular lottery works.

• Greg G.

And I am saying that you (should) start with a .5 probability and then collect evidence to alter the number.

Well, dammit, if you are going to alter the number, it doesn’t matter what number you start with.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, it does matter what number you start with. You start with the correct number — .5 — which reflects the logical possibilities.

Also, the use of inflammatory terms does not help.

I don’t either of us is going to persuade the other. I think I am correct, and you think you are correct. Several attempts at persuasion haven’t worked.

• Greg G.

If I have a lottery ticket, you don’t know the odds, there is no sense in assuming it has a 50% chance of winning if you know anything about lottery tickets. You find out how the winner is determined and calculate the odds. If you assumed .5, 0, 100% or anything else before you did the calculation, you have to change it to what you determined the odds are. Why start with an irrational assumption that must be changed?

If you know it is either a winner or a loser, you must know something about lotteries. Until you find the method to be used for the winner, you can assume the odds are much against you and that is being neutral.

• Joe

If I have a lottery ticket, you don’t know the odds, there is no sense in assuming it has a 50% chance of winning if you know anything about lottery tickets.

I don’t play the lottery regularly, but if the odds are 0.5, I’ve surely bought enough tickets in my lifetime as to have had a winning one by now. What gives?

• Greg G.

You must break a lot of mirrors.

• Joe

Hey! I’m not that ugly!

• Gary Whittenberger

We know a lottery is a contest. When know a lottery ticket is a chance at winning. If I have a legitimate lottery ticket in my hand, and I know nothing else, then I know that either I have the winning lottery ticket or I don’t. Right then I am justified at setting my probability of winning at .5 before conducting an investigation of the particular lottery. The starting assumption is rational and correct.

There could be only two tickets in this particular lottery, a winning ticket and a losing ticket. If I learn that, then I won’t need to adjust the .5, right? If I learn that there are one hundred thickets and only one winning ticket, then I will need to adjust the number to .01, right? (All of this assumes random selection of the winner, which is something we would learn too.)

You have tried several different ways to persuade me that you are correct, and I have done the same. Given that knowledge, what do you think is the probability that on your next attempt, you will persuade me?

• Ignorant Amos

Going out in a thunder storm, I will get struck by lightening, or I won’t. Worded like that, the probability is .5, but that is to over simplify the issue.

All yes or no questions are 50/50 in the form that the answer will be either a yes or a no. But semantics aside, that’s not how we think.

Like the, “does my arse look big in these jeans?”, or the, “have you stopped beating your wife?” questions…50/50 isn’t always the best place to start.

• Kodie

Why would you even buy a lottery ticket? If you think the odds are .5, then you might double your money or lose your money. That’s what you think going in. You’re going to spend \$2 to win \$2 more, maybe? Jeez, why don’t you buy \$100, then your probability would be to break even. That’s pretty lame, but then people who know a lot more about the lottery spend more to win nothing, because of the actual odds.

• Gary Whittenberger

People should adjust the .5 probability as they acquire new information about the particular lottery in question. That’s how Bayes equation is supposed to work. One theory is that people subconsciously use a form of Bayes theorem in their head.

” Either the ticket you hold is a winning ticket or it is not. ”

Or it is just ONE ticket out of 4.5 billion, with all having the same chance to win.

“the odds are .5 that you hold a winning ticket.”

No the odds are not:

• Ignorant Amos

But still the probability of a single die coming up six is .166…, and the probability of a single coin coming up heads is .5, and the probability of a single god existing (before any evidence is collected) is .5.

So given the number of possible outcomes for a six, you know ahead of time that starting at 50/50 is ridiculous for dice, but sound for a 50/50 odds outcome where that is the only possibility. Seems to me that you have shot down your own position. When you word the question, either a six will come up, or it will not, you know that it is not a .5 starting point. Saying the same, God exists, or does not, has the same problem. Especially with that particular list of attributes you have given your version of God.

Even taking the myopic view that it is a particular god, say YahwehJesus, given the permutations of possible YahwehJesus’s, like a six coming up on a set of dice, it ain’t a 50/50 starting point…unless there is only two definitions of YahwehJesus being considered to begin with.

• Gary Whittenberger

I think what we set as the starting default probability depends on what we know without investigation and what question we are addressing. Maybe I should have said that the probability of throwing a die and getting the winning number is .5, knowing nothing else about the die or the game themselves. However, after investigation we can alter the probability to .166…

On the God question, I still disagree with you. First, we start with a reliable definition of God, which I have presented. Then, we recognize the two logical possibilities — either God exists or does not, which yields and initial probability of .5 that God exists. This is the undecided or agnostic position. Then, we conduct an investigation to gather evidence, reasons, and arguments relevant to the existence of God. And as we go, we alter the initial probability of .5 upward or downward, depending on what we find during the investigation. This is quite rational.

We are considering a single god, i.e. God, defined as I did from the start. All this talk about other gods is irrelevant.

• TheNuszAbides

even worse (for team Gary and/or team Xianity) – only one definition!

• Susan

I think we have to evaluate the existence of each god, one at a time.

So do I. The problem is that we never get a clear message back when we ask something like “What are you claiming and how do you support it?”

I’m not sure how the term “god” is helpful. It can mean too many things, many contradictory, most too vague to evaluate.

How can we apply math to fog?
.

• Gary Whittenberger

S1: I think we have to evaluate the existence of each god, one at a time.

G1: You and I agree on that point.

S1: The problem is that we never get a clear message back when we ask something like “What are you claiming and how do you support it?”

G1: Never? I don’t agree with “never.” I would say “sometimes.” But I agree that we should ask god proponents to be more specific and precise in their claims.

S1: I’m not sure how the term “god” is helpful. It can mean too many things, many contradictory, most too vague to evaluate.

G1: I think the term “god” is helpful, but I would like to see its meaning better standardized. I prefer this definition: A god is a hypothetical supernatural intelligent agent.

S1: How can we apply math to fog?

G1: I think we can apply math to almost anything, but it is better to clear the fog first. This means pressing religious people to be more specific and precise in their statements.

• Susan

I prefer this definition: A god is a hypothetical supernatural intelligent agent.

“Supernatural” is not a clear term.

How do we evaluate the supernatural?

This means pressing religious people to be more specific and precise in their statements.

I agree. But they come back with terms like “infinite being” and “perfect being” and “immaterial mind”.

Feely terms that don’t make sense. What is a perfect being?

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: I prefer this definition: A god is a hypothetical supernatural intelligent agent.

S2: “Supernatural” is not a clear term.

GW2: It is clear to me and some other people. I prefer this definition: “Supernatural is the condition of a thing or event, hypothetical or real, seeming to be contrary to the currently known laws of nature, according to a consensus of scientific experts, and somehow being superior to or prior to those laws.”

S2: How do we evaluate the supernatural?

GW2: We compare alleged phenomena to the definition of “supernatural” and examine relevant natural laws.

S2: This means pressing religious people to be more specific and precise in their statements.
I agree. But they come back with terms like “infinite being” and “perfect being” and “immaterial mind”.

GW2: And we should not accept those come backs. We should ask “What do you mean by that?”

S2: Feely terms that don’t make sense. What is a perfect being?

GW2: I agree with you. Something is “perfect” only with respect to some particular trait, ability, skill, or continuum. When somebody says God is a perfect being, I usually say “So he is perfect in evil?”

• Susan

“Supernatural is the condition of a thing or event, hypothetical or real, seeming to be contrary to the currently known laws of nature, according to a consensus of scientific experts, and somehow being superior to or prior to those laws.”

No. I don’t see it. The currently known laws of nature are the limited (though stunningly impressive) laws that have been so far developed.

Until we can draw a line that says “nature ends here”, we have no basis for the supernatural. No way to assign any probability.

And we should not accept those comebacks.

Honestly, in ten years, that’s all they have. Pressing them for clarification has led nowhere. If you can provide a counterexample, I’d be happy to take a look at it.

It’s fog.

I see no way to apply probabilities to it.

No way to apply probabilities to omnisicience, nor omnipotence

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “Supernatural is the condition of a thing or event, hypothetical or real, seeming to be contrary to the currently known laws of nature, according to a consensus of scientific experts, and somehow being superior to or prior to those laws.”

S2: No. I don’t see it. The currently known laws of nature are the limited (though stunningly impressive) laws that have been so far developed.

GW2: I’m sorry you don’t see it. If Jesus came back to life, this would be a supernatural event because it seems to violate the laws of nature as so far developed. Does that help?

S2: Until we can draw a line that says “nature ends here”, we have no basis for the supernatural.

GW2: There is no need to draw that line. The line is drawn at “the laws of nature, according to the current consensus of scientists in the relevant field.”

S2: No way to assign any probability.

GW1: And we should not accept those comebacks.

S2: Honestly, in ten years, that’s all they have. Pressing them for clarification has led nowhere. If you can provide a counterexample, I’d be happy to take a look at it.

GW2: Read some of the better apologists, like William Lane Craig. They provide good clarifications of their positions. This doesn’t mean they are right.

S2: It’s fog. I see no way to apply probabilities to it. No way to apply probabilities to omnisicience, nor omnipotence

GW2: It’s not all fog. How probable is it that an intelligent being exists which is not made of energy-matter? It is super-improbable!

• MNb

“Supernatural is the condition of a thing or event, hypothetical or real, seeming to be contrary to the currently known laws of nature, according to a consensus of scientific experts, and somehow being superior to or prior to those laws.”
According to you definition superconductivity at relatively high temperatures (36+ Kelvin or something like that) is supernatural. It not only seems, it is contrary to the currently known laws of nature (specifically BCS theory which earned a Nobel Price for Physics in the early 1970’s) according to a consensus of scientific experts. Two of them (and many after them) showed it somehow being superior to those laws (which earned them another Nobel Price for Physics in 1986).

Search the internet and you’ll find more examples.
According to me your definition is a failure.

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree that superconductivity is supernatural, according to my definition of supernatural. It might have been when it was first discovered, but not any longer.

“Jesus came back to life” is a good example of a supernatural event, according to my definition.

I am willing to entertain other definitions of “supernatural” or even make revisions to my own. Suggest something.

“Jesus came back to life” is a good example of a supernatural event,”

No, its a good example of an UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIM.

I can demonstrate superconductivity, can you demonstrate Jesus?

• Gary Whittenberger

You are missing the point. “Jesus came back to life” is a claim about a supernatural event, but “Mt. St. Helens errupted” is a claim about a natural event. You are going off on your own tangents, especially in your graphics.

• MNb

“I disagree that ….”
That only demonstrate you don’t understand your own definition or are in love with special pleading. You carefully neglect that I used your own terminology.

“It might have been when it was first discovered”
Then you would admit that events can jump from the supernatural to the natural, which confirms that your definition is a failure. But let’s accept this one. It’s equally funny.

“Jesus came back to life”
According to your additional criterion it isn’t, it only was before it was “first discovered” – by for instance the witnesses the Gospels refer to.
Your definition still is a failure.

“is a good example of a supernatural event, according to my definition.”
Because of exactly the same reasons I gave regarding superconductivity at relatively high temperatures (btw it’s a sign of your intellectual dishonesty that you omit the latter part; it’s essential).

1. it is contrary to the currently known laws of nature;
2. according to a consensus of scientific experts;
3. it is somehow being superior to those laws

“Suggest something.”
Why would I? I think your view bogus and the reason is that your definition is a failure. But maybe I will as soon as I feel like, after you have had a fair chance to save your definition from failure for instance. See, I slightly disagree with Susan when she writes “supernatural is not a clear term”. I’d rather replace it by “believers are unclear about what they mean with the supernatural to decrease the risk of the void of their belief system getting exposed”. But that’s somewhat long winded and thus far Susan’s description hasn’t made any substantial difference.

“I think we have to evaluate the existence of each god, one at a time.”
Given that there is an infinite amount of gods imaginable we would spend the rest of our short lives doing nothing else.
Thank you very much. I know more interesting ways to waste my time.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “It might have been when it was first discovered”

M2: Then you would admit that events can jump from the supernatural to the natural, which confirms that your definition is a failure. But let’s accept this one. It’s equally funny.

GW2: They don’t jump. They are re-interpreted. The laws of nature are added to and refined. Amusement isn’t an argument.

GW1: “Jesus came back to life”

M2: According to your additional criterion it isn’t, it only was before it was “first discovered” – by for instance the witnesses the Gospels refer to.

GW2: “Jesus came back to life” is still a claim about a supernatural event. That hasn’t changed.

M2: Your definition still is a failure.

GW2: I disagree. My definition is a resounding success.

GW1: “is a good example of a supernatural event, according to my definition.”

M2: Because of exactly the same reasons I gave regarding superconductivity at relatively high temperatures (btw it’s a sign of your intellectual dishonesty that you omit the latter part; it’s essential).
1. it is cont rary to the currently known laws of nature;
2. according to a consensus of scientific experts;
3. it is somehow being superior to those laws

GW2: As I explained before, your objection based on superconductivity doesn’t work. My definition remains a resounding success.

GW1: “Suggest something.”

M2: Why would I?

GW2: Maybe because you are actually interested in this topic or think you have a better definition.

M2: I think your view bogus and the reason is that your definition is a failure. But maybe I will as soon as I feel like, after you have had a fair chance to save your definition from failure for instance.

GW2: I disagree.

M2: See, I slightly disagree with Susan when she writes “supernatural is not a clear term”. I’d rather replace it by “believers are unclear about what they mean with the supernatural to decrease the risk of the void of their belief system getting exposed”. But that’s somewhat long winded and thus far Susan’s description hasn’t made any substantial difference.

GW2: Then, since you apparently think “supernatural” is a clear term, present your definition of it.

GW1: “I think we have to evaluate the existence of each god, one at a time.”

M2: Given that there is an infinite amount of gods imaginable we would spend the rest of our short lives doing nothing else.

GW2: We should evaluate them one at a time, as they are presented to us by a believer/advocate. By addressing God first, we respond to about 52% of the world’s population. That’s pretty good.

M2: Thank you very much. I know more interesting ways to waste my time.

GW2: If you believe that you’ve wasted your time, then you don’t need to thank me for that. You are responsible for how you spend your time.

• Ignorant Amos

GW2: They don’t jump. They are re-interpreted. The laws of nature are added to and refined.

So they were never really supernatural at all? They were thought to be natural explanations back in the day, because gods were deemed part of the natural world, then when we knew better, they were reinterpreted as once being thought of as natural, but now they are natural for different reasons….mostly because we know god claims are nonsense and no longer naturalistic.

GW2: “Jesus came back to life” is still a claim about a supernatural event. That hasn’t changed.

But the claim gives no veracity to the the event having happened.

GW2: We should evaluate them one at a time, as they are presented to us by a believer/advocate. By addressing God first, we respond to about 52% of the world’s population. That’s pretty good.

Nah…it isn’t that simple. The God of the Westbro lunatics is not the same as the one of the Quakers is not the same God as the Catholics. The concepts, characteristics, and attributes of God, even within the many Christianities, is wide and varied. So nope, ya don’t kill 52% of the bird with one stone.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW2: They don’t jump. They are re-interpreted. The laws of nature are added to and refined.

IA3: So they were never really supernatural at all? They were thought to be natural explanations back in the day, because gods were deemed part of the natural world, then when we knew better, they were reinterpreted as once being thought of as natural, but now they are natural for different reasons….mostly because we know god claims are nonsense and no longer naturalistic.

GW3: No, the usual trend is that something is first thought to be supernatural and then it is later thought to be natural.

GW2: “Jesus came back to life” is still a claim about a supernatural event. That hasn’t changed.

IA3: But the claim gives no veracity to the the event having happened.

GW3: I haven’t claimed that the event actually happened; it very probably did not. But right now this hypothetical event is properly considered to be supernatural. And even if it were confirmed somehow to have actually happened, at least for awhile it would still be properly considered to be supernatural.

GW2: We should evaluate them one at a time, as they are presented to us by a believer/advocate. By addressing God first, we respond to about 52% of the world’s population. That’s pretty good.

IA3: Nah…it isn’t that simple. The God of the Westbro lunatics is not the same as the one of the Quakers is not the same God as the Catholics. The concepts, characteristics, and attributes of God, even within the many Christianities, is wide and varied. So nope, ya don’t kill 52% of the bird with one stone.

GW3: Yes, it is that simple. Yes, Westboro and Catholics do worship the same god. My definition of “God” presents the lowest common denominator for all the Abrahamic religions.

• Ignorant Amos

GW3: Yes, it is that simple. Yes, Westboro and Catholics do worship the same god. My definition of “God” presents the lowest common denominator for all the Abrahamic religions.

Rubbish…you’ve already had to rehash the definitions of omnipotent and omniscient to mean something not omnipotent and omniscient, for the reason that they are incoherent terms. So straight away you are in conflict with what God is to many believers already.

I think this concept of God is coherent: “God is the hypothetical distinct, unique, spiritual person who is necessarily existing, everlasting, everywhere-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, fully free, self-sufficient, perfectly moral, and supremely authoritative; who created our universe and any others which might exist; who at least sometimes intervenes in our universe, especially in human affairs; who wants us humans to believe and behave in certain ways in our current lives for which he sometimes rewards us in an afterlife; and who wants us not to believe and behave in other ways for which he sometimes punishes us in an afterlife. This is the god believed in by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims.”

So strike all-knowing and all-powerful.

Most ya say? So not all, which means to some, your definition is incoherent. How many is most and how do you know?

Why would a perfect entity that knows everything, and can do anything, have wants?

What happens to Jews when they die? They don’t believe the poppycock that the Christians and Muslims do, so your definition has failed on that score.

Are there Christians who don’t believe in an afterlife?

SDA believes when a person dies, they remain unconscious until they are resurrected. Eternal life is a gift which God only grants to those who have accepted the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf. By an act of mercy on the part of God, the wicked will be destroyed by fire. Thus, Seventh-day Adventists do not believe that a person goes to heaven for an eternal reward or to hell for never-ending torture immediately upon death.

The JW’s believe some freaky nonsense that does not cohere to your Gd assertions.

http://strivingforeternity.org/resources/world-religions/jehovah-witness/what-is-the-afterlife-in-jehovahs-witnesses/

Bang goes anther of your assertions…incoherent alright.

How, coherently speaking, does God create universes, this one, and any others…including the infinite? The statement is incoherent unless you can describe how God did it.

• Ignorant Amos

GW3: I haven’t claimed that the event actually happened; it very probably did not. But right now this hypothetical event is properly considered to be supernatural. And even if it were confirmed somehow to have actually happened, at least for awhile it would still be properly considered to be supernatural.

Supernatural events are not real, they have never happened. It is an abstract term applied to made up nonsense. At the moment it becomes not made up nonsense, then it is no longer described as a supernatural event.If it was confirmed that Jesus actually rose from the dead, it would no longer be a supernatural event. It would become a natural event that we have yet to know how it happened. The Big Bang is not a supernatural event, it is a natural event that we are striving to explain naturally.

“They were thought to be natural explanations back in the day,”

So ignorant people believed in MAGIC, for things they did not understand.
Just like today.

• MNb

“They don’t jump. They are re-interpreted. The laws of nature are added to and refined. Amusement isn’t an argument.”
I didn’t write that amusement is an argument. That’s a strawman.
In this context re-interpreting means just jumping to and fro, so that’s a false dilemma.
Laws of nature only apply to our natural reality and can’t say anything about the supernaturality of events. So that’s a category error.

“I disagree. My definition is a resounding success.”
Yeah, I already know that you excel at issuing decrees.

” As I explained before”
You didn’t explain anything. On the contrary, you refuse to address the three points I made, three points I took over from you.
You only confirm your intellectual dishonesty.

Command your dog and bark yourself. I don’t take orders from intellectual dishonest people like you, because I deeply distrust them (and you). For the same reason I only fulfill their requests when I feel like. The more often you repeat this command the less likely I will do it.

“We should evaluate …”
“You are responsible for how you spend your time.”
Nice contradiction. If you claim authority with “we should” you rob me of my responsibility.
Btw “thank you very much” has more one meaning. In this specific case, as will be clear from context, it’s not an expression of me being grateful, on the contrary.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “They don’t jump. They are re-interpreted. The laws of nature are added to and refined. Amusement isn’t an argument.”
M2: I didn’t write that amusement is an argument. That’s a strawman.

GW2: When you say “It’s equally funny,” then you are reporting your amusement. Who cares? Amusement isn’t an argument. That is a concrete man, not a straw man.

M2: In this context re-interpreting means just jumping to and fro, so that’s a false dilemma.
Laws of nature only apply to our natural reality and can’t say anything about the supernaturality of events. So that’s a category error.

GW2: I disagree. What is first interpreted as supernatural may later be interpreted as natural. As I said, natural laws may be added to, revised, or refined, based on new experience.

GW1: “I disagree. My definition is a resounding success.”

M2: Yeah, I already know that you excel at issuing decrees.

GW2: You decreed that my definition is a failure. We disagree.

GW1: ” As I explained before”

M2: You didn’t explain anything. On the contrary, you refuse to address the three points I made, three points I took over from you. You only confirm your intellectual dishonesty.

GW2: Please don’t split my sentences like that. It is unethical.

GW1: “present your definition of it”

M2: Command your dog and bark yourself. I don’t take orders from intellectual dishonest people like you, because I deeply distrust them (and you). For the same reason I only fulfill their requests when I feel like. The more often you repeat this command the less likely I will do it.

GW2: Please don’t split my sentences like that. It is unethical. You have made two uncivil comments here. You started well, but now your posts are devolving.

GW1: “We should evaluate …”
“You are responsible for how you spend your time.”

M2: Nice contradiction. If you claim authority with “we should” you rob me of my responsibility.
Btw “thank you very much” has more one meaning. In this specific case, as will be clear from context, it’s not an expression of me being grateful, on the contrary.

GW2: No contradiction here. The first is a strong recommendation. The second is a statement of the way things are. Sarcasm is not very useful in a philosophical discussion. Oh, and again, please do not split my sentences when you quote me. That is unethical.

GW2: We are both being redundant. Your commentary is beginning to include more uncivil communications. It may be time to wrap this up.

” It might have been when it was first discovered”

Nope it never was.

IGNORANT people may have believed such.

• Kodie

Well, that never seems to work.

• Gary Whittenberger

It works sometimes.

• epeeist

To begin the analysis of Zeus we should start with a probability of .5, just like with the analysis of God.

Disagree, one also has to take the background knowledge into account. In its current aspect Unwin’s god presumably lives in the unfalsifiable realm “outside of space and time”. But of course there is no substantive evidence for such a place, nor has any mechanism been provided for interactions between it and and our world. His coin-toss probabilities ignore this background knowledge.

I would go further than Greg G., there is no way we can restrict the set of possible gods to the ones we know about. This being so, and the ceteris paribus condition means that the prior probability of his particular god existing is therefore minute.

• Greg G.

I agree. I intended to mention unknown gods but got interrupted.

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree with you. We should start with the .5 probability and then take the background knowledge into account. This may lower or raise the probability according to Bayes Theorem.

“Living outside space and time” is not included in my definition of “God.” See earlier.

The existence of each god must be considered independent of each other god. It is possible for none or one or many to exist. (Even in the case of the Abrahamic god, angels can themselves be considered to be gods living at the same time as God.) All gods are not mutually exclusive of each other.

• epeeist

We should start with the .5 probability and then take the background knowledge into account.

I suspect we may be approaching this the wrong way and using a binomial rather than multinomial approach to the problem. However I am out for the rest of the day and don’t have time to check this now.

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree. I suspect we are approaching the problem in the right way. Either God exists or he does not. These are the only two LOGICAL possibilities. Without evidence or data, the probability that God exists can be seen to be .5. As evidence is collected, then we revise our probability estimate.

• epeeist

Doing some background reading I think the approach of treating it as a binary model is incorrect.

What we have is a whole series of possibilities, not just Unwin’s god or that of Gary Whittenberger but the set of all possible gods. This has the obvious constraint

P(G1) + P(G2) + P(G3) + … + P(Gn) + P(~G) = 1

Again, if we have no reason to choose between any particular god then the best we can do is make each term equiprobable.

We then need to use multi-model inference using all the accepted properties for gods.

This is way beyond my comfort zone but an indication of how this is done can be found here.

• Kevin K

I’m no mathematician, but shouldn’t there be negative numbers in there? Even the fractions are positive numbers.

• ThaneOfDrones

No. Probabilities run from 0.0 to 1.0.
0.0 means impossible.
0.5 means it is equally likely to occur or not occur; i.e. a fair coin flip.
1.0 means a sure thing.

D is the ratio of two probabilities, so it should also be positive. More specifically, it is the ratio of the probability of X divided by the probability of not X, so it should range from 0/1 = 0 up to 1/0 = infinity.

• Kevin K

Fun with numbers.

From my perspective, since the concept of god is incoherent, without a complete definition of what it is that they’re trying to discern, there should be a negative number in there somewhere.

• ThaneOfDrones

Are you familiar with the concept of imaginary numbers?

• Kevin K

Yes, I think the square root of -1 is the most likely probability for any god you care to describe.

• Gary Whittenberger

I think this concept of God is coherent: “God is the hypothetical distinct, unique, spiritual person who is necessarily existing, everlasting, everywhere-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, fully free, self-sufficient, perfectly moral, and supremely authoritative; who created our universe and any others which might exist; who at least sometimes intervenes in our universe, especially in human affairs; who wants us humans to believe and behave in certain ways in our current lives for which he sometimes rewards us in an afterlife; and who wants us not to believe and behave in other ways for which he sometimes punishes us in an afterlife. This is the god believed in by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims.”

I also think God does not exist.

• Greg G.

I think the all-powerful and perfectly moral part makes it inconsistent with our reality that has unnecessary suffering. There is nothing suffering can do that an all-powerful being cannot do, so that makes all suffering unnecessary. Allowing unnecessary suffering is sadistic which makes the all-powerful not moral.

• Gary Whittenberger

I agree. Therefore, God does not exist.

• Herald Newman

Some of those properties on their own would seem to be incoherent, like all-knowing, and all powerful. How does an entity possessing those property remain coherent?

• Gary Whittenberger

I think both those properties you mention are coherent.

All-knowing is the hypothetical trait of an intelligent agent which knows everything that can possibly be known about anything and everything; having complete accurate knowledge of all facts, including about the past, the present, and the future and about the laws of nature. Some theologians have said however, that if God were to exist, he wouldn’t have knowledge of the future, but would still be able to make mostly accurate predictions or guesses about the future because of his superior knowledge of the past and present.

All-powerful is the hypothetical trait of an intelligent agent which is capable of doing anything which is logically possible to do. For example, this agent could create a second moon for the Earth, but could not make a square triangle.

If you still think those properties are incoherent, please tell us why. I think they are coherent even though the might not exist anywhere.

• Herald Newman

Even saying that omnipotent means doing anything which is logically possible itself gives rise to contradictions. Here’s one argument which shows how being logically omnipotent is logically impossible (h/t to AnticitizenX)

1. God is omnipotent
2. Being omnipotent means being able to do anything logically possible
3. A logically possible feat is any coherent action that one can speak out loud without contradiction
4. It is logically possible to create a finite mass of rocks that cannot be lifted by its own maker (this has been done before, therefore it is logically possible)
5. Therefore an omnipotent being can create a finite mass of rock that cannot be lifted by its maker
6. Therefore an omnipotent being can create a finite mass of rock that cannot be lifted by an omnipotent being
7. For any finite mass of rock it is logically possible to generate a force that will lift it against a uniform gravitational field
8. Therefore an omnipotent being can lift any finite mass of rock
9. Premises 6 and 8 are contradictions
10. Therefore it is logically impossible to be omnipotent
11. Therefore God is logically impossible.

As for omniscience, can God know what it’s like to be truly, and completely, ignorant about science?

• Gary Whittenberger

Premise #5 entails a logical contradiction, and therefore the argument fails.

On the other hand, your second point about omniscience may be a good one. Perhaps God could not know what would be logically impossible to know. This would require a revision of the definition of “omniscience.”

Revision:
All-knowing is the hypothetical trait of an intelligent agent which knows everything that can possibly be known about anything and everything; having complete accurate knowledge of all facts, including about the past, the present, and the future and about the laws of nature. The exception would be that this trait would not include knowing anything which is logically impossible to know. Some theologians have said however, that if God were to exist, he wouldn’t have knowledge of the future, but would still be able to make mostly accurate predictions or guesses about the future because of his superior knowledge of the past and present.

• Herald Newman

Premise #5 entails a logical contradiction, and therefore the argument fails.

That’s the fucking point!!! Omnipotence gives rise to logical contradictions, and is therefore incoherent!

• Gary Whittenberger

Please do not use inflammatory words. it’s not necessary to make your points.

I have redefined “omnipotence” so that it does not give rise to a logical contradiction. On the other hand, we could just use a new term instead, i.e. “near omnipotence,” but since the term “omnipotence” is in wide usage, maybe it is just easier to append the qualification to the definition.

• Greg G.

Premise #5 entails a logical contradiction, and therefore the argument fails.

That is how reductio ad absurdum works.

• Gary Whittenberger

This is already taken into account in the definition with an exception. Some people might prefer the replacement term “nearly omnipotent” to take account of the exception.

• Ignorant Amos

Omniscience? The argument from incoherence?

If you knew everything, then you should know that you know everything. If you do not know if you know everything, then you don’t know everything. So, would a god know everything? How would it know? There are some questions that even a god could not answer. One question proceeds from a possible being that God could create. God could create a solipsistic being and make that being so that it thinks it created the universe. It could give such a being all knowledge except knowledge that it itself was created. Such a being would have no idea that it was, in fact, a created being and that there was another, higher, creator. If God wanted to create such a deluded being, it could do so. The problem is, our theorized God itself does not know if it exists in such a state of ignorance. In short, God cannot know if it does actually know everything. There is no way for it to even verify that it is indeed the true creator god.

All intelligent sentient beings must realize that without verification from other beings than itself or from science, it cannot know if it is correct in its world view. It doesn’t matter how intelligent or knowledgeable a being is – if that being wants to verify its knowledge to make sure that it is correct then it needs to look to something more intelligent than itself, or to science. But what if you are the creator of science? You couldn’t then use your own construct to test if your own construct was true, it would be a circular and invalid test. If god attempted to find out if it did indeed know everything, it would realize that it has no way to know. How does it know it knows everything? It merely thinks it does. God has no test, method or possibility of finding out if it does indeed know everything. God could itself be a created being, with another creator hiding secretly behind it. It wouldn’t know. In short, it does not and cannot know if this is true. Also, what if God uses its power to intentionally forget something? For Christians, this is exactly what the Bible says God can do, in Isaiah 43:25. If an omniscient and omnipotent being has chosen not to know something, then it may, or may not, know that it doesn’t know. The worst possibility is when it erases its own knowledge of self-forgetting. It can therefore never know that it doesn’t know something. It can’t check. God does not know everything and is not omniscient. In fact, no being can know everything because no being, however creative or perfect, can verify that its own knowledge is complete.

http://www.humanreligions.info/god_is_impossible.html#Omniscience

• Gary Whittenberger

IA: Omniscience? The argument from incoherence?
If you knew everything, then you should know that you know everything. If you do not know if you know everything, then you don’t know everything. So, would a god know everything?

GW: Yes, if God did exist, he would know that he knew everything.

IA: How would it know?

GW: I don’t know how it would know. I am not all-knowing. The definition assumes it would know.

IA: There are some questions that even a god could not answer.

GW: Another participant here made a similar point, and so I revised the definition of “all knowing” to include this: “The exception would be that this trait would not include knowing anything which is logically impossible to know.” I think this adequately addresses your point.

IA: All intelligent sentient beings must realize that without verification from other beings than itself or from science, it cannot know if it is correct in its world view.

GW: Again, the definition makes no assumption about how or why God would be omniscient, only that he would be.

IA: God could itself be a created being, with another creator hiding secretly behind it.

GW: But if God wasn’t a created being, he would know this. That kind of knowledge is part of the definition of “all knowing.”

IA: Also, what if God uses its power to intentionally forget something?

GW: I think that would be immoral and by definition, God is perfectly moral, and so he would not “intentionally forget.”

• Greg G.

For ineffable reasons, an omnipotent, omniscient being could give a clam the perfect delusion of being omnipotent and omniscient, performing deeds or giving the illusion that the clam had done things and giving the clam a false sense of certainty for everything it thought it knew. The OO being would also know that it may well be in the same position as the clam. It would have no way to distinguish being omniscient from being perfectly deluded as omniscient. But it could be like that all the way up to a sufficiently powerful being that knew it was neither omnipotent nor omniscient, yet the SF being would still not know if it had a more powerful hidden creator.

Or there could be an OO being at the top of the chain but it still wouldn’t know if it was actually OO or deluded by its own imaginary SF being, so it wouldn’t be completely omniscient. It would have the same existential brain-in-a-vat problem of solipsism.

We can imagine an omniscient being until we think it through.

• Well, the theists just make the fundamental assumption that the being is definitely omnipotent and omniscient (I mean, of course, if it’s a god, it has to be all-powerful and know everything – that’s just common sense) – then they just assume that a perfect being absolutely must exist (I mean, there has to be a being in existence that’s greater than any other being, right?). Then they assume that this perfect omniscient being fits as the god of whatever holy book they believe in (I mean, the book claims it’s inspired by God – what’s the problem?), and Hey Presto – it’s the one true god and they can start hanging or burning people who say otherwise.

The only problem is, in reality, the greatest being is probably something like the blue whale – after all, at 98 feet long, it’s fricken huge! Or something even bigger, like the 2.4 mile long honey fungus that lives in the Blue Mountains in Oregon. When theists start worshiping the blue whale or the Blue Mountain honey fungus, I’ll take them a little more seriously, in that at least they’re worshiping something we know to exist, and to have some aspects that are measurably “greater” than any other being.

• Greg G.

Now, I am wondering why the names of the largest forms of life start with “blue”.

• I’m guessing blue must be the greatest color.

• TheNuszAbides

it’s the maximally color-y color.

• Reminds me of YInMn, the new blue pigment that Crayola made a crayon named “Bluetiful” out of (though this is rather off topic).

• Joe

Would an omniscient being know the future? If so it is not omnipotent if it can’t change the future. otherwise it would be wrong in it’s knowledge.

The apologetic answers to this are highly unsatisfactory. If you wish to posit that god would know every possilbe future, they would still be lacking one simple piece of information: what future will actually come to pass?

• Gary Whittenberger

Your first question is the subject of a hot debate among theologians and philosophers. It is interesting, but I don’t see how it is relevant to the current subject. You can start with a definition of God with knowing the future or not knowing the future, and see where each leads.

• Otto

I agree that fits the general definition…I don’t agree that it is coherent

• Gary Whittenberger

Which specific part do you think is not coherent? By coherent, do you mean understandable or “makes sense”?

• Otto

By coherent I mean ‘logically connected and consistent’.

What does it mean to be a ‘spiritual person who is necessarily existing’? How can something be perfectly moral and reward and punish based on belief? How can something be perfectly moral and all powerful and allow the kind of chaotic, random suffering we see? I know those religions have answers they use for these questions but I don’t find those answers anymore coherent, if I did I would still be a Christian.

• Gary Whittenberger

Ok, the definition is logically connected and consistent.

In this context, spiritual means “consisting of some currently unknown substance which is not energy-matter in any of its forms.”
In this context, “necessarily existing” means “it must exist” or “it cannot not exist” or “it is absolutely necessary that it exists.”
In this context, it is assumed that beliefs are intentionally chosen (although that is debatable), and so if this is true, then it could be moral to reward and punish based on belief. For example, if God exists, it might reward the belief that Jesus came back to life and punish the belief that he did not.

Your next point about allowing random suffering is part of an argument to show that God does not exist. But being triple-O is logically connected and consistent. It just leads to a conflict with the evidence of the world.

The definition of God which I presented is coherent, even by your definition of “coherent” (and by others). This does not mean that God exists. It only means that we can make sense of the concept and then go on to investigate whether this concept has some referent in the real world.

• Otto

>>>”In this context, spiritual means “consisting of some currently unknown substance which is not energy-matter in any of its forms.”

I literally don’t know what this is, I have no examples of any such thing. What is a ‘substance’ that does not have substance? I also don’t know how something that lacks energy/matter ‘intervenes in our universe’, that part definitely lacks being connected and consistent (also part of the definition you propose). What you describe here is not consistent or coherent with our current understanding of reality.

>>>”In this context, “necessarily existing” means “it must exist” or “it cannot not exist” or “it is absolutely necessary that it exists.”

This is all fine and good, but this does not even come close to explaining why it must exist, or why it could not ‘not exist’. Saying that ‘it just has to’ does not make it coherent or incoherent, it is just empty.

>>>”In this context, it is assumed that beliefs are intentionally chosen (although that is debatable), and so if this is true, then it could be moral to reward and punish based on belief.”

Even if beliefs are intentionally chosen what is also assumed is that making a choice in opposition to a supposed authority is a moral issue. I don’t see how being obedient in and of itself is a moral issue.

>>>”Your next point about allowing random suffering is part of an argument to show that God does not exist.”

No it does not show such a God does not exist, it is to show that such a God is not omnibenevolent.

>>>”It only means that we can make sense of the concept and then go on to investigate whether this concept has some referent in the real world.”

Maybe this is where we are having our disconnect. I figured we were talking about how this definition comports to what we see in reality. If you are just saying that the concept is coherent within an alternate reality like a fantasy writer explains a magical being…umm OK…I guess it could be seen as coherent in that case…but if that is the case I don’t find that discussion all that interesting.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “In this context, spiritual means “consisting of some currently unknown substance which is not energy-matter in any of its forms.”

O2: I literally don’t know what this is, I have no examples of any such thing. What is a ‘substance’ that does not have substance? I also don’t know how something that lacks energy/matter ‘intervenes in our universe’, that part definitely lacks being connected and consistent (also part of the definition you propose). What you describe here is not consistent or coherent with our current understanding of reality.

GW1: Energy-matter is a substance, something of which things are composed. So, “spiritual” would refer to some other kind of substance of which things are composed, which is not energy-matter. I think this is consistent and coherent, but different from what we already know to exist.

GW1: “In this context, “necessarily existing” means “it must exist” or “it cannot not exist” or “it is absolutely necessary that it exists.”

O2: This is all fine and good, but this does not even come close to explaining why it must exist, or why it could not ‘not exist’. Saying that ‘it just has to’ does not make it coherent or incoherent, it is just empty.

GW2: I disagree. It is coherent and not empty. It is possible that basic particles like quarks, electrons, and photons must necessarily exist. It is assumed in the definition that God must necessarily exist. This is understandable, even though it might not be true.

GW1: “In this context, it is assumed that beliefs are intentionally chosen (although that is debatable), and so if this is true, then it could be moral to reward and punish based on belief.”

O2: Even if beliefs are intentionally chosen what is also assumed is that making a choice in opposition to a supposed authority is a moral issue. I don’t see how being obedient in and of itself is a moral issue.

GW2: Being obedient is a moral issue only indirectly. If God exists AND is perfectly moral, then if he gives a command and you disobey it, then you are not behaving morally. This might be just cause for punishment.

GW1: “Your next point about allowing random suffering is part of an argument to show that God does not exist.”

O2: No it does not show such a God does not exist, it is to show that such a God is not omnibenevolent.

GW2: I disagree. The definition of God includes triple-O. If you show that any O is not present, then you have shown that God doesn’t exist. Somebody could then postulate a new god which is not triple-O, but it wouldn’t be God.

GW1: “It only means that we can make sense of the concept and then go on to investigate whether this concept has some referent in the real world.”

O2: Maybe this is where we are having our disconnect. I figured we were talking about how this definition comports to what we see in reality. If you are just saying that the concept is coherent within an alternate reality like a fantasy writer explains a magical being…umm OK…I guess it could be seen as coherent in that case…but if that is the case I don’t find that discussion all that interesting.

GW1: Yes, this may be the source of disconnect. The concept of God is understandable, comprehensible, and plausible. I find the discussion of whether this hypothetical thing exists in reality very interesting, as do many people.

• Otto

>>>”I find the discussion of whether this hypothetical thing exists in reality very interesting”

As do I, but when I am considering whether your definition of God is coherent it is in the context of reality as we experience it. Things that can act on material are not immaterial or lack substance.

I said…”What you describe here is not consistent or coherent with our current understanding of reality.”

Then you respond by saying…” I think this is consistent and coherent, but different from what we already know to exist.”

I agree that the fact that we can’t say for certain that this is impossible, but it is certainly not coherent with our current understanding and there is no indication that what you are proposing could be possible. Saying that we can’t prove that something is impossible does not put it in the realm of coherency.

>>>”It is possible that basic particles like quarks, electrons, and photons must necessarily exist.”

Yes but ‘basic particles like quarks, electrons, and photons’ have already been proven to exist! But if I said there is ‘thing’ that lacks any of the attributes of matter or energy that interacts with matter and energy and is intrinsic to matter and energy existing, without so much as demonstrating that said ‘thing’ even exists itself, I do not understand how such a statement can be considered logically connected or consistent…i.e. coherent.

>>>”If God exists AND is perfectly moral, then if he gives a command and you disobey it, then you are not behaving morally. This might be just cause for punishment.”

It might…but it would not necessarily be the case. Having a wrong belief in and of itself just makes one wrong, it does not make one immoral or worthy of punishment.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “I find the discussion of whether this hypothetical thing exists in reality very interesting”

O2: As do I, but when I am considering whether your definition of God is coherent it is in the context of reality as we experience it. Things that can act on material are not immaterial or lack substance.

GW2: When I use the word “material” I am referring to energy-matter. I don’t know what you are referring to. A spiritual substance would be immaterial because by definition it would not be energy-matter. You might think of a possible interaction of a spiritual substance with a material one as analogous to the interaction of dark matter with regular matter.

O2: I said…”What you describe here is not consistent o r coherent with our current understanding of reality.” Then you respond by saying…” I think this is consistent and coherent, but different from what we already know to exist.”

O2: I agree that the fact that we can’t say for certain that this is impossible, but it is certainly not coherent with our current understanding and there is no indication that what you are proposing could be possible. Saying that we can’t prove that something is impossible does not put it in the realm of coherency.

GW2: I think we are just using different meanings of “coherent.” The definition I have given is coherent in the sense that it is comprehensible, understandable, and reliable. The thing it describes is plausible or possible. I think you mean that it is not coherent in the sense that it is improbable or not like what we already know to exist. I agree with that sense.

GW1: “It is possible that basic particles like quarks, electrons, and photons must necessarily exist.”

O2: Yes but ‘basic particles like quarks, electrons, and photons’ have already been proven to exist! But if I said there is ‘thing’ that lacks any of the attributes of matter or energy that interacts with matter and energy and is intrinsic to matter and energy existing, without so much as demonstrating that said ‘thing’ even exists itself, I do not understand how such a statement can be considered logically connected or consistent…i.e. coherent.

GW2: It is definitely logically possible. It is coherent in the sense I presented, but not in the sense you presented.

GW1: “If God exists AND is perfectly moral, then if he gives a command and you disobey it, then you are not behaving morally. This might be just cause for punishment.”

O2: It might…but it would not necessarily be the case. Having a wrong belief in and of itself just makes one wrong, it does not make one immoral or worthy of punishment.

GW2: I think it does, if the assumption that you deliberately choose your beliefs is correct. It is possible that there exists a god who operates this way. I don’t think there is, but it’s still possible.

• Otto

>>>”A spiritual substance would be immaterial because by definition it would not be energy-matter.”

I don’t know how a ‘substance’ cannot be energy/matter. I have no reference point of any such thing, you have admitted you don’t either. I looked up the definition of substance and I can’t find anything that matches what you seem to be talking about. Hence I find it incoherent.

>>>”I think we are just using different meanings of “coherent.”

I told you what definition I was using and you said what you are talking about falls in that definition.

>>>”The definition I have given is coherent in the sense that it is comprehensible, understandable, and reliable.”

Well I don’t comprehend or understand what you are talking about

and I certainly have no idea how you can say it is ‘reliable’ considering you have admitted you have no reference point for it. What makes it reliable?

>>>”The thing it describes is plausible or possible.”

I have no idea if it is plausible or possible, it is completely unknown. It might be plausible or possible, then again it might not.

>>>”It is definitely logically possible.”

I don’t agree with that, again it might be, but that is not the same as being definite. Where is the logical connection between what we experience in reality and what you are describing?

>>>”I think it does, if the assumption that you deliberately choose your beliefs is correct.”

I only agreed to that assumption for the sake of argument, even so I still hold one can deliberately choose a belief that turns out to be wrong and not be culpable. Humans are not perfect and therefore it would be wrong for an all knowing being to expect us to be perfect and then punish us for not being perfect. In that instance God created imperfect beings so God is culpable for that failure.

Additionally we know people do not deliberately choose beliefs.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “A spiritual substance would be immaterial because by definition it would not be energy-matter.”

O2: I don’t know how a ‘substance’ cannot be energy/matter. I have no reference point of any such thing, you have admitted you don’t either. I looked up the definition of substance and I can’t find anything that matches what you seem to be talking about. Hence I find it incoherent.

GW2: I find it coherent but unlikely to exist in reality.

GW1: “I think we are just using different meanings of “coherent.”

O2: I told you what definition I was using and you said what you are talking about falls in that definition.

GW2: Again, there are different definitions of “coherent,” so we’ve got to be careful here. A definition of “God” does not have to be “coherent” in the sense of the word that you are using. It does have to be coherent in the sense of being understandable or comprehensible, and my definition of “God” is. Whether God exists is a separate issue.

GW1: “The definition I have given is coherent in the sense that it is comprehensible, understandable, and reliable.”

O2: Well I don’t compreh end or understand what you are talking about…

GW2: Then you are an outlier because at least 90% of the people to whom I have presented the definition (theists, agnostics, and atheists) find it to be comprehensible and understandable.

O2: and I certainly have no idea how you can say it is ‘reliable’ considering you have admitted you have no reference point for it. What makes it reliable?

GW2: It is reliable in the sense that most people consistently say that it is a good definition and that they agree with it.

GW1: “The thing it describes is plausible or possible.”

O2: I have no idea if it is plausible or possible, it is completely unknown. It might be pla usible or possible, then again it might not.

GW2: I don’t think I can do any better than I have already done in explaining “plausible” and “possible.” I guess we just disagree on this point.

GW1: “It is definitely logically possible.”

O2: I don’t agree with that, again it might be, but that is not the same as being definite. Where is the logical connection between what we experience in reality and what you are describing?

GW2: Ok, I agree to disagree on this point.

GW1: “I think it does, if the assumption that you deliberately ch oose your beliefs is correct.”

O2: I only agreed to that assumption for the sake of argument, even so I still hold one can deliberately choose a belief that turns out to be wrong and not be culpable. Humans are not perfect and therefore it would be wrong for an all knowing being to expect us to be perfect and then punish us for not being perfect. In that instance God created imperfect beings so God is culpable for that failure.

GW2: I have not assumed that God would “expect us to be perfect.” You just added that one on your own. Also, culpability could be shared.

O2: Additionally we know people do not deliberately choose beliefs.

GW2: Within psychology this is a highly controversial area in itself, which I have discussed with others ad nauseum. I’m not interested in discussing it now. It is not essential to the overall points I am making.

GW2: I appreciate that, unlike some others on this thread, you have steered away from uncivil communications.

• Otto

>>>”It does have to be coherent in the sense of being understandable or comprehensible, and my definition of “God” is.”

Being able to understand a made up concept is different than it being logically connected and consistent to reality. I have already admitted that if you are talking about an alternate reality, any definition of anything could be said to be coherent. In that case you can literally put any definition of anything together and it could make sense. That is what Sci Fy and Fantasy writers do. That is not what I am talking about when it comes to ‘coherence’, if that is what you are talking about than OK but than that is rather meaningless.

>>>”Then you are an outlier because at least 90% of the people to whom I have presented the definition (theists, agnostics, and atheists) find it to be comprehensible and understandable.”

I understand what the words mean, I don’t see them as logically connected or consistent. If you said ‘the air in heaven is just like the air in our atmosphere without the molecules’ I know what the words mean, I don’t know what you are really describing though. Yes I can suspend disbelief and just go with it, but that doesn’t really get us anywhere towards understanding.

>>>”It is reliable in the sense that most people consistently say that it is a good definition and that they agree with it.”

I agree that the definition fits what many theists are describing, so yeah it is reliable in that sense. The definition of how transubstantiation works in the Catholic church is equally reliable, that does not make it coherent, which is why when it comes down to it they have to defer to ‘mystery’.

>>>”I have not assumed that God would “expect us to be perfect.” You just added that one on your own.”

If God punishes us for holding a wrong belief he is expecting humanity to be perfect regarding our choice.

>>>”Also, culpability could be shared.”

That would make God imperfect.

>>>”Within psychology this is a highly controversial area in itself”

I don’t think it is controversial to say that beliefs are not solely the end result a choice. That is not to say choice could not play a part, just that there is much more to it.

>>>”I appreciate that, unlike some others on this thread, you have steered away from uncivil communications.”

I give what I get, you have not been uncivil so there is no reason for me to be.

• Gary Whittenberger

“I give what I get, you have not been uncivil so there is no reason for me to be.”

You are right — I have not been uncivil. I have been civil. But you have engaged in uncivil communications and then made excuses for it. However, even if somebody did communicate uncivilly to you (which I haven’t), you should still not reply in kind. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Because we are just going over the same ground and getting nowhere and because you have begun making uncivil comments, I think it is best that we move on to other things.

“Because we are just going over the same ground and getting nowhere and because you have begun making uncivil comments,”

• Gary Whittenberger

There you go again — making another personal attack. Yep, time to stop talking to you.

“There you go again — making another personal attack.”

” Yep, time to stop talking to you.”

But my guess is that you will claim VICTIM to TRY and avoid being held responsible for your own dishonesty.

• Otto

>>>”But you have engaged in uncivil communications and then made excuses for it. ”

Really…is it something I provoked or was there a reason I was pissed?

>>>”Because we are just going over the same ground and getting nowhere”

We are getting nowhere because you cannot back up your claim and now you are copping out. I can’t say I am surprised.

>>>”However, even if somebody did communicate uncivilly to you (which I haven’t), you should still not reply in kind. ”

I can respond anyway I see fit, and fuck you for thinking you can tell me otherwise.

>>>”and because you have begun making uncivil comments”

No I haven’t…until this very post… because now you have suddenly turned into a condescending douche. I am now sorry I wasted my time with you after thinking you were decent instead of the dishonest asshat you have now revealed yourself to be. Good Day.

• MNb

“The definition I have given is coherent in the sense that it is comprehensible, understandable, and reliable.”
That’s not what’s meant with coherent in philosophy and science.
But soit. According to this definition square circles are a coherent concept as well.
That’s another failed definition, so it seems to me. And you just denying it won’t be a convincing argument.
Let alone that you haven’t made clear how something can be comprehensible, understandable and reliable when not expressable in terms of matter-energy etc.

“It is definitely logically possible. It is coherent in the sense I presented.”
Then I must conclude that it’s you’ve changed the definition of “logically possible” as well.
I’m pretty sure nobody here will buy it.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “The definition I have given is coherent in the sense that it is comprehensible, understandable, and reliable.”

M2: That’s not what’s meant with coherent in philosophy and science.

GW2: Maybe not, but that definition is acceptable for this forum.

M2: But soit. According to this definition square circles are a coherent concept as well.
That’s another failed definition, so it seems to me. And you just denying it won’t be a convincing argument.

GW2: “Square circle” is self-contradictory. Is it understandable? I’m not sure. “Square” is understandable, and “circle” is understandable, but is “square circle” understandable?

M2: Let alone that you haven’t made clear how something can be comprehensible, understandable and reliable when not expressable in terms of matter-energy etc.

GW2: I think I have. Almost all the people to whom I have presented my definition of “God” find it to be comprehensible and understandable.

GW1: “It is definitely logically possible. It is coherent in the sense I presented.”

M2: Then I must conclude that it’s you’ve changed the definition of “logically possible” as well.
I’m pretty sure nobody here will buy it.

GW2: Do what you must do. I disagree with you on these points.

• Ignorant Amos

GW1: “It is definitely logically possible. It is coherent in the sense I presented.”

It’s not, but even if it was, the prior probability that it exists is not 50/50, and that is the starting position you are trying to force.

• MNb

“So, “spiritual” would refer to some other kind of substance of which things are composed, which is not energy-matter. I think this is consistent and coherent,”
Yeah, but that doesn’t make it so.
Something has to have substance expressable in terms of energy-matter or it can’t be interacted upon, because all such interactions are expressable in terms of energy-matter as well. The example of Herman Philipse goes like this: take “X loves GaryW”.
What exactly are we talking about? Let’s assume that X is a human being, let me call him Jerry. Jerry can express his love for GaryW in four ways: behaviour, body language, language and facial expressions. All four of them can be described in terms of matter-energy.
Now let’s assume that X is something “spiritual”, ie not expressable in terms of matter-energy. As a consequence those four ways Jerry can use are not available to that “spiritual” entity and hence “God loves GaryW” is incoherent. Mutatis mutandis this applies to every single statement that includes a “spiritual” entity interacting with our natural reality.
Like Susan wrote – the entire concept of a supernatural reality is incoherent. A priori. So your view that a rational approach must begin with a probability is bogus, more or less like the view that we must start with a probability of 0,5 regarding the question if square circles exist.
As a plus you are well underway to a proper definition of supernaturality, already for 1/7 part. So now I feel like helping you out a bit.

http://gravimotion.info/Physics_seven_basic_quantities.php

One could add angle and solid angle.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “So, “spiritual” would refer to some other kind of substance of which things are composed, which is not energy-matter. I think this is consistent and coherent,”

M2: Yeah, but that doesn’t make it so.

GW2: So we disagree.

M2: Something has to have substance expressable in terms of energy-matter or it can’t be interacted upon, because all such interactions are expressable in terms of energy-matter as well.

GW2: You are describing the real world, not the possible world. As I said, if God did exist, he would have created the natural laws you are talking about, and he could change them on the fly.

M2: The example of Herman Philipse goes like this: take “X loves GaryW”.
What exactly are we talking about? Let’s assume that X is a human being, let me call him Jerry. Jerry can express his love for GaryW in four ways: behaviour, body language, language and facial expressions. All four of them can be described in terms of matter-energy.
Now let’s assume that X is something “spiritual “, ie not expressable in terms of matter-energy. As a consequence those four ways Jerry can use are not available to that “spiritual” entity and hence “God loves GaryW” is incoherent. Mutatis mutandis this applies to every single statement that includes a “spiritual” entity interacting with our natural reality.

GW2: One possibility that you have left out is that if God exists and is composed of a spiritual substance, he could created something made of energy-matter on the fly which could interact with me or anything else made of energy-matter. “Creator of the universe” is part of the definition.

M2: Like Susan wrote – the entire concept of a supernatural reality is incoherent. A priori.

GW2: I disagree with both Susan and you on this point for reasons I have already presented.

M2: So your view that a rational approach must begin with a probability is bogus, more or less like the view that we must start with a probability of 0,5 regarding the question if square circles exist.

GW2: My view is rational for both your examples. We should start with a .5 probability for God’s existence, as Unwin suggests in his book. (I think atheist Victor Stenger supported this idea too.) The idea of “square circles” is contradictory, so that conversation doesn’t get off the ground.

M2: As a plus you are well underway to a proper definition of supernaturality, already for 1/7 part. So now I feel like helping you out a bit.

GW2: I appreciate any help that you are willing to give.

• MNb

“So we disagree.”
Amazing that you have arrived at this profound conclusion.
Except that I have given you a reason while you just issue a decree.

“You are describing the real world, not the possible world.”
Demonstrate that that world is possible. This is just another variation of your beloved decree.

“he could created something made of energy-matter on the fly which could interact with me or anything else made of energy-matter.”
Jumping from a supernatural world to a natural world and vice versa like a frog on a hot plate.
Yeah, and if I flap my arms I possibly could fly.
You are the one who has to demonstrate that this is even possible instead of continuously issuing decrees. As long as you refuse to do so the a priori probability is and remains zero.

“The idea of “square circles” is contradictory.”
As contradictory as a supernatural god interacting with our natural reality, because “supernatural” and “natural” don’t go together either.
Btw I’m talking supernatural square circles, not the ones we find in our natural world. In the same way I was talking about supernatural me, supernatural arms, supernatural flapping and supernatural flights above. We are talking possible worlds here. There is a possible world in which square circles exist because having four angles and round do not contradict each other in that possible world. I just issued that decree like you issue yours.
So now you revert to special pleading; when it suits you you accept “x and y don’t go together” hence “contradictory”, when it doesn’t it brings you to the conclusion that the a priori probability is 0,5.
Of course your special pleading only confirms that the a priori possibility of god is zero. If you want to deny it, be my guest. Stop issuing decrees. Show how such interaction takes place, which means are used and which procedures are followed. Until then the a priori probability is and remains zero.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: “So we disagree.”

M2: Amazing that you have arrived at this profound conclusion.

GW2: It’s not profound.

M2: Except that I have given you a reason while you just issue a decree.

GW2: I’ve given good reasons for all the assertions I have made, but I don’t think you have.

GW1: “You are describing the real world, not the possible world.”

M2: Demonstrate that that world is possible. This is just another variation of your beloved decree.

GW2: Of course it is possible. No demonstration is required. If it is not logically impossible, then it is possible.

GW1: “he could created something made of energy-matter on the fly which could interact with me or anything else made of energy-matter.”

M2: Jumping from a supernatural world to a natural world and vice versa like a frog on a hot plate. Yeah, and if I flap my arms I possibly could fly.

GW1: Yes, it is possible that if you flap your arms, you could fly. It just isn’t likely. It goes against what we currently know of natural law.

M2: You are the one who has to demonstrate that this is even possible instead of continuously issuing decrees. As long as you refuse to do so the a priori probability is and remains zero.

GW2: I covered this above.

GW1: “The idea of “square circles” is contradictory.”

M2: As contradictory as a supernatural god interacting with our natural reality, because “supernatural” and “natural” don’t go together either.

GW2: No, the former is self-contradictory, whereas the latter is not. I even gave you a possible mechanism for it.

M2: Btw I’m talking supernatural square circles, not the ones we find in our natural world. In the same way I was talking about supernatural me, supernatural arms, supernatural flapping and supernatural flights above. We are talking possible worlds here. There is a possible world in which square circles exist because having four angles and round do not contradict each other in that possible world. I just issued that decree like you issue yours.

GW2: You are making more than one category error here.

M2: So now you revert to special pleading; when it suits you you accept “x and y don’t go together” hence “contradictory”, when it doesn’t it brings you to the conclusion that the a priori probability is 0,5.

GW2: I am not engaged in special pleading, but you are making a category error.

M2: Of course your special pleading only confirms that the a priori possibility of god is zero. If you want to deny it, be my guest. Stop issuing decrees. Show how such interaction takes place, which means are used and which procedures are followed. Until then the a priori probability is and remains zero.

GW2: I deny it. I disagree with you. We’ve gone round and round on this. We are becoming redundant. Maybe this discussion has reached the point of diminishing returns.

• Ignorant Amos

Coherent, my arse!

• Gary Whittenberger

How are you defining “coherent”? And which specific part of the definition do you believe is not coherent?

• Kevin K

Except it’s not the definition of “god” for about one-third of the world’s population (at the very least). And even within the Abrahamaic traditions, that definition is not universally accepted. So, no. I don’t think defining god in that way is coherent at all; because there’s no way to verify that’s the real-and-actual nature of that particular god. Not to mention the fact that it positively disclaims all of the other gods currently worshiped.

• Gary Whittenberger

It is the god believed in by over half of the world’s population. I already described a valid procedure for showing that this is the case. If you want to consider other gods, that’s fine. Present a definition of one and we can evaluate it.

I have provided a coherent and reliable definition of “God.”

Other gods may or may not exist. We’d have to define them and investigate them, one by one.

• Kevin K

And since it is only believed by a proportion of the population, you are offering the logical fallacy known as “argumentum ab populum.”

My point is that I should not have to present a definition for something. The people who claim the existence of such things — the ball is firmly in their court. And to date, no one … including you, I’m afraid … have provided a coherent definition that is reliably agreed upon by all parties involved. When you exclude the others, you’re privileging your definition of god … which could be wrong. How do you know the Hindu definition of god isn’t the correct one?

When all religions everywhere agree on a verifiable and coherent definition of what a god is (not what it does, FWIW), then we can go precisely and exactly nowhere.

“When all religions everywhere agree on a verifiable and coherent definition of what a god is ”

Can’t happen

NO two people see God the same.

• Kevin K

My point exactly. And when asked by religious people why I don’t believe in their god, my answer is almost always “which one”? Unless and until all religions everywhere can agree on a coherent, verifiable definition of their god, I see no reason to choose one over any of the others.

Of course, I would — frankly — settle for every religion everywhere deciding on the status of the bacon cheeseburger. Each religion appears to be upset over a different component of it. Hindus — the beef. Jews — bacon and cheese-on-beef. Buddhists — the meat. 7th Day Adventists — the meat. Crazy-assed old-school Catholics — the meat, but only on Fridays and/or during Lent. Jains — pretty much everything but the bun. And on and on.

Settle on the status of the bacon cheeseburger, and then we can start other conversations. That and the wearing of hats.

• Gary Whittenberger

KK: And since it is only believed by a proportion of the population, you are offering the logical fallacy known as “argumentum ab populum.”

GW: No, Kevin, I am not claiming that God exists because 52% of the world’s population believes it does. If I were, then you’d be correct. I claiming something different here – that most of that 52% agrees that my definition of God accurately describes their belief.

KK: My point is that I should not have to present a definition for something.

GW: Actually, you should. If you use a word and I ask you for your definition of the word, then I think you have an obligation to tell me what you mean by the word, at least for words with multiple meanings, controversial terms, or ambiguous terms.

KK: The people who claim the existence of such things — the ball is firmly in their court. And to date, no one … including you, I’m afraid … have provided a coherent definition that is reliably agreed upon by all parties involved.

GW: I disagree. I have provided a definition of “God” which is concise, precise, comprehensive, understandable, comprehensible, internally consistent, and reliable. What more could you ask for? This doesn’t mean that God exists.

KK: When you exclude the others, you’re privileging your definition of god … which could be wrong. How do you know the Hindu definition of god isn’t the correct one?

GW: Kevin, I’m not talking about the Hindu god. I am talking about only one god, the one believed in by 52% of the world’s population.

KK: When all religions everywhere agree on a verifiable and coherent definition of what a god is (not what it does, FWIW), then we can go precisely and exactly nowhere.
GW: Reread what you just said. I think you don’t mean what you actually said. You can talk about other gods if you wish, but I am talking here only about one.

“that most of that 52% agrees that my definition of God accurately describes their belief.”

But it doesnt accurately describe their beliefs, as YOU HAVE ALREADY ADMITTED.

Gary Whittenberger adam • 18 hours ago
“Different people hold a common concept of God, ”

EVERYONE views ‘God’ differently so it is not your 4.5 BILLION claim, but your claim only supports 1 view of God, YOUR OWN.

“If you use a word and I ask you for your definition of the word, then I
think you have an obligation to tell me what you mean by the word, at
least for words with multiple meanings, controversial terms, or
ambiguous terms.”

Then you actually need 4.5 BILLION definitions for God, because that’s how many there are with 4.5 billion people.

• Kevin K

Honestly, it really doesn’t matter how large a proportion believes something-or-thus to be an accurate description of reality. You’re still basing that description based on peoples’ opinions. You have no way to verify that those opinions are, in fact, correct. So you rely on the tyranny of the large number to bully that particular description into orthodoxy.

FWIW: I didn’t really want to get into the fine bits, but the definition provided really isn’t coherent at all, and doesn’t really describe what the various denominations, sects, and subsects believe about their deity. But since you can’t get past the first fallacy, it’s best to just leave all that other stuff aside.

If and when everyone — all religions everywhere AND those skeptical of the claims of religion — agree on a verifiable, coherent, and unified definition of “god”, then the pursuit cannot go further.

You have a nice day.

• Gary Whittenberger

KK: Honestly, it really doesn’t matter how large a proportion believes something-or-thus to be an accurate description of reality. You’re still basing that description based on peoples’ opinions. You have no way to verify that those opinions are, in fact, correct. So you rely on the tyranny of the large number to bully that particular description into orthodoxy.

GW: I think you are totally misunderstanding the nature of the problem. Again, I am not claiming that 52% of the people are correct to believe that God exists. I am claiming that most of that 52% agrees that my definition of God accurately describes their belief on what God would be like, if he exists. Sometimes the accurate assessment of the opinions of people answers a question.

KK: FWIW: I didn’t really want to get into the fine bits, but the definition provided really isn’t coherent at all, and doesn’t really describe what the various denominations, sects, and subsects believe about their deity. But since you can’t get past the first fallacy, it’s best to just leave all that other stuff aside.

GW: My definition is the lowest common denominator for what God is, according to those adhering to the Abrahamic faiths. Sure they are going to have differences in belief at the periphery, but this is insignificant. They still believe in the same god.

KK: If and when everyone — all religions everywhere AND those skeptical of the claims of religion — agree on a verifiable, coherent, and unified definition of “god”, then the pursuit cannot go further.

GW: Sure the pursuit can go further. The next step is to conduct a competent investigation to see if God, as defined, actually exists.

KK: You have a nice day.

GW: Thank you. So far, it has gone pretty well.

• Kevin K

Except 1) they don’t, and 2) even if they did, that doesn’t make it correct.

Have a nice life.

• Gary Whittenberger

You are still misunderstanding the entire issue. I’ve had a nice life and expect it to continue.

“You are still misunderstanding the entire issue. ”

Apparently true about everyone here but you.
THAT should tell you something.

“It is the god believed in by over half of the world’s population.”

There is NO such thing, NO TWO people believe in the same God in the same way

“It is the god believed in by over half of the world’s population.”

Except it is NOT.

No two people have the same beliefs in God.

• 0 = God doesn’t exist, and 1 = God certainly does exist. Anything in between is the probability. You multiply in new factors that move the resulting probability up toward 1 or down toward 0. No negative numbers required.

• Greg G.

You multiply in new factors that move the resulting probability up toward 1 or down toward 0.

How does a new factor move the probability up toward 1? The probability can be no larger than the smallest factor.

• I stand corrected.

• Kevin K

-1 = there is no coherent, agreed-upon definition of “God” that would allow you to undertake such an analysis.

• Human goodness, such as altruism (D = 10)

How in hades did he think that Human Goodness was 10 times greater than a sure thing probability? Not to mention that minor miracles (answered prayers) and religious experience were two times greater. It boggles the mind.

• Herald Newman

How in hades did he think that Human Goodness was 10 times greater than a sure thing probability?

The article briefly explained what D is. D is defined as P(E|X) / P(E|~X), when E is the evidence, and X is the thing we’re looking for. D=10 would mean that P(E|G) / P(E|~G) = 10. In other words, we’re much more likely to see this evidence (E) if God exists (G) than if God does not exist (~G).

What he’s done is correct, but the numbers that he’s pulled out of his posterior for each term are suspect, as Bob points out.

• Robert Templeton

And that is one of the big problems when using Bayes Theorem. Good uses include using values of known percentages or guesstimates based on experience, knowledge, or related items. Bad uses just use values based on assumptions (which introduces bias immediately). This is why the Drake Equation is little more than an exercise in futility. With nothing but one technological sentient civilization (us) as a source of information (let alone one planet with life on it of which we know), almost all of the values are vast assumptions. Un-win is simply stepping up the bad use game into non-existent territory.

• I was not arguing with the logic I was arguing with the number itself. The stupid idea that humans cannot be good without a god. Christians are so indoctrinated with ‘man is born sinful’ and cannot be good without the divine moral guidance of their god that they can’t see that it was all created by Iron Age men to explain the concept of good and evil, to create a ‘in’ group and an ‘out’ group that would intice people to join the ‘in’ group and to keep people in line.

How else would you try to create a civilization out of a bunch of sheep and goat herders.

• “How in hades did he think that Human Goodness was 10 times greater than a sure thing probability?”

I’m guessing he hasn’t read much (if anything) about how morality evolves as a survival mechanism in animals forced to live together in social groups.

• Deplorable_ME

Unfortunately, magical thinking is part of the human condition. Religion is helpful when you refuse to be in charge of yourself – totally. Agree it may be very frightening to accept all responsibility but it is better for you spiritually. Believing in God or a god is good for soul work. Depending on your belief system and the cultural origin – it’s not a bad thing unless and humans will do this- you make and use it for BAD. I personally do not believe in heaven/hell but respect that some people want and may need that. It would be better if we taught integrity instead of religion or in addition to religion to younger children – there for not teaching to do because there is punishment but doing right because it counts and improve our world? Who knows – not sure about Unwinded but then it’s all theory isn’t it….

• John Do’h

Humans believe in religion for a selfish reason, religion makes them feel important and significant. If they pretend to worship they think …1. they are being noticed by this fantasy god… 2. that they can get rewards for worshiping… 3. they are superior to non believers.

You cannot rationalize this irrational selfish desire. Humans created this fantasy god… if there is a real “god” creator, this real objective “god” doesn’t have to have anything to do with this human created subjective fantasy god. If you say this fantasy god is fake, they take it as a personal insult, because the point is their significance… and they may kill or imprison you.

• sandy

Also no one likes to be told they are wrong and/or have been duped. That hurts.

• Kodie

I don’t think it is an irrational desire. It’s unrealistic, but that doesn’t make it irrational. Maybe that’s the drink talking, so I just mean it’s how humans behave. On the self side, humans might presume there is the supernatural agent (superstition), and then on the other side, the religion exploits natural insecurity by exaggerating it and offering something it doesn’t have (marketing) to fill this hole. Theists will often speak of the god-shaped hole that only god can fill, well, that’s not necessarily imaginary. We’re raised in a culture of theists, and our parents are probably theists, and so, nobody knows any better, not even adults who raise children, so it’s a huge hurdle to know better and be more rational. It’s not only children, despite Bob’s constant idea that requiring an age of majority to teach religion, that imagine easy-ways-out, magical thinking, patterns and signs. Adults are absolutely not immune to the power of suggestion. It’s not just the religious inventing a desire for something to be in control of the chaos, it’s just their assertion that there is something, paired with the vulnerability of most humans to want it. I mean, it’s irrational in the way that it doesn’t seem to exist, but not irrational for humans to sincerely want it.

• Robert Templeton

You should drink more often. 🙂

• Kodie

I probably shouldn’t 😉

• John Do’h

Maybe the desire is not irrational, but the focus is on the emotional desire to feel important and get rewards. That is what makes religion/ spirituality different from intellectual curiosity. It is a subjective personal desire, not an objective intellectual interest. This is why religion is so emotional, “I must be important, I must be here for a reason, I must have some sort of spiritual power”… that is why religion is still so strong in society, and will never go away, religion is about the individual.

There may be a creator of some sort, but this creator doesn’t have to be defined by desired human assumptions.

• frishy

Precisely ZERO probability.
1. It would have to operate faster than light, and nothing can do that in THIS universe.
2. All information relies on a physical substrate to exist, therefore, it couldn’t have ‘pre-dated’ the big bang, first since time began then, and, no matter was around to allow for information to be stored.
If someone claims ‘supernaturalness’, we may not share enough reality to have the conversation.

• Greg G.

1. It would have to operate faster than light, and nothing can do that in THIS universe.

I grew up watching Star Trek and they could communicate across the galaxy in real-time using subspace communications.

• frishy

Yes, the speed of thought also exceeds the speed of light, but action at a distance by thought alone doesn’t happen.

• Greg G.

As Terry Pratchett has pointed out, the only thing that exceeds the speed of light through space is monarchy. The instant the ruler dies, the next in line becomes the monarch. A character in one of his books was working on a way to torture a king at the point of death to modulate a signal.

• Gary Whittenberger

Bob, I like this essay and agree with almost all of it.

You said “First, let’s revisit our starting probability about God. Does Zeus exist? Thor? Osiris? Shiva? Quetzalcoatl? If the answer is “Are you serious? Of course not!” then why do we start with a 0.5 probability for Yahweh, especially when he looks like just another Canaanite god?”

I think Unwin is correct to start with the probability of .5. Either God exists or he does not. We don’t know which it is. WITH NO OTHER INFORMATION OR EVIDENCE, we are correct to start with the .5 probability. With nothing else to go on, we’d be justified in flipping a coin.

The existence of other gods should be approached from the same perspective — using Bayes’ theorem and starting with a .5 probability for each of them. The question of the existence of one is independent of the question of existence of the others. Take one god at a time.

I discussed and criticized Unwin’s calculations in my book — God Wants You to be an Atheist.

• Either the Tooth Fairy exists, or she does not. So by your reasoning, we must start at 0.5 probability. 50% chance of a magical being existing that goes to children’s bedrooms at night and collects teeth in exchange for money.

If we had no other data, we’d have to flip a coin, and we could end up believing in a fairy for which there is no evidence whatsoever. This is not rational.

No wonder people believe gods are real when they start off by giving him the benefit of the doubt!

Bayes Theorem is good for calculating odds for things existing elsewhere that we know exist here. It is no use for calculating odds for things we have no evidence for. We don’t need Bayes Theorem when there is no evidence for a god anywhere. The number we start at is zero. It doesn’t get any bigger.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, when we start a serious investigation of the existence of the Tooth Fairy, we must start with the default assumption that the probability of its existence is .5 and then begin to collect relevant evidence, reasons, and arguments, plug the new information into Bayes equation, and recalculate the new probability estimate.

Yes, if we had no data, then we’d have to flip a coin. However, it is not rational to NOT collect data.

People often begin their investigations with bias, and this is not rational. This is why the default starting position must be .5 probability.

The use of Bayes Theorem is a useful approach to investigating the existence of anything. You don’t know you don’t have evidence in support of a hypothesis until after you conduct an investigation, and thus for you to start with a probability of 0 before you begin investigating is unwarranted and irrational. There are two LOGICAL possibilities — either God exists or he does not. There is no middle ground here. Without any data or evidence and before collecting it, the proper assumption is that the probability that God exists is .5.

For more information on this topic, I recommend that you read Unwin’s book. It is short and well articulated, even though I do not agree with his final estimate of the probability that God exists.

• I think this is the atheist equivalent of debating how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Completely pointless, given that there is no evidence for any god, so no reason to believe one exists.

• Gary Whittenberger

You are pointing at the end rather than the beginning of an investigation.

This is not “completely pointless” since 4.5 billion people currently believe in God, so we have our work cut out for us.

• 4.5 people believe in “a” god. Only 2.2 billion believe in God (i.e. the Christian god). But either way, no one is ever going to prove to a theist that gods aren’t real by using a pseudo-scientific math equation. What does tend to convince is the requirement that they show evidence for their god – something they can never do. At some point, it dawns on many of them that they have no rational basis for their beliefs. Then they start living a full life, free from superstition.

• Gary Whittenberger

You left out the Jews and the Muslims. They believe in God too!

Different people are persuaded by different methods. I don’t agree with your claims of “no one ever…” and “they can never…” Those claims are way too extreme.

I agree with you last point, and extend it: “Life is a process of maturation to atheism. Unfortunately some persons die before they reach that stage.”

• Greg G.

You left out the Jews and the Muslims. They believe in God too!

Most Christians haven’t read the Bible, let alone material about other religions so they probably wouldn’t agree that they worship the same God as Jews and Muslims. Many of those that are really into their version of Christianity would tell you that the Muslims believe in Satan posing as God. Many Christians have the same suspicions about other Christians. It seems that Muslims may think that of other sects of Islam but I haven’t had direct experience with them. From a Jewish or Muslim position, Christians are not even monotheists.

• Gary Whittenberger

Try this thought experiment: Take my full definition of “God” and break it down into its elements. Then produce a claim about each element, e.g. “If God exists, then he is all-knowing.” You may end up with nearly 20 claims. Then ask 5000 randomly selected Jews, Christians, and Muslims if they agree with each claim. My prediction is that a very high percentage of the sample will agree with a very high percentage of the claims.

I have talked with many Christians and a few Jews and Muslims, and they accept my definition almost entirely.

Satan is a peripheral issue, not a core one for the definition of God.

• Greg G.

Your thought experiment seems hell-bent on arriving at your preconception. Ask 5000 random Christians whether the Muslim God is all-knowing. Most will not accept your definition even if they accept that Muslims think their god is all-knowing. Many Christians do not distinguish between other gods and Satan. Some Christians can be objective. I would expect some Muslims and some Jews to be objective. But most do not seem to be able to separate their religion from their own identity enough to be objective or they are not knowledgeable enough to have an objective opinion.

• Gary Whittenberger

My thought experiment entails a prediction. You don’t agree with my prediction. That’s ok. Is it your prediction that most of the sample will not agree with most of the claims?

The thought experiment has nothing to do with Satan or other gods. It focuses on God.

In the survey described, the first question would be “Which of the following best describes your own worldview?” Three of the choices would be “Christianity,” “Judaism,” and “Islam,” scattered among several others. It would be useful to see what percentage of each worldview agrees with each claim about God.

• Greg G.

It would be useful to see what percentage of each worldview agrees with each claim about God.

It would be useful to see why they agree with each of the claims. If it is nothing more than believing what somebody who had no more evidence than we have writing the claims centuries ago, then it should lower the odds of a god tremendously as it shows that most people believe there is a god on no valid evidence. Since we know that people believe in contradictory forms of gods, we know that most people believe in the wrong gods, which means people have a tendency to believe in gods that do not exist.

• Gary Whittenberger

Unlike many atheists, I think there is evidence to support the existence of God, but I think it is poor, inadequate, and equivocal, and there is also good evidence against the existence of God (and you have mentioned some of it).

• TheNuszAbides

exactly why I am highly unlikely to ever read his book. i suspect that it all goes substantively downhill after the [I admit, snappy] title.

• Kodie

You are behaving as though you are just now starting with 50% either way and no information. There is no work cut out for me, humans make shit up and then believe it. It’s observable.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, humans pose hypotheses, and it is our job to do competent investigations of them. So what? On the God question, we should start from the undecided position. Either God exists or he does not. And then investigate.

• Kodie

Well, before, there was nothing to decide, and then you informed me about god, so now I have to decide – what I previously didn’t have to think about, or weigh this new and ridiculous information.

• Gary Whittenberger

Haven’t you made a decision on whether God exists or not? If so, what is your decision?

• Kodie

I didn’t make a decision prior to hearsay about god. Atheism is a response to the assertion that god exists.

• epeeist

Atheism is a response to the assertion that god exists.

I would disagree, atheism is actually the null position. It’s just that it for hysterical raisins that it gets defined as the negative of theism.

• Kodie

First, there is no information. What you know or think about god doesn’t factor into your life until someone introduces the concept of god to you and asserts that god exists (or that lots of people believe that he does). Then you have to weigh those ridiculous claims and make a fucking statement as though this is a thing adults need to think about. For example, when you’re born, you don’t know shit about Santa Claus and if someone asked you if Santa Claus is real, you don’t know what they’re talking about – this is a completely new concept to you either way, and you need to know more about Santa Claus before making that decision. If you are a gullible, trusting child, you will probably automatically assume your parents don’t lie to you. In fact, lying is a new concept, but catches on very quickly.

So I’m not saying every new concept is automatically rejected, but I don’t need to consider “atheism” if nobody is making claims about any gods. If you are taking the definition to be “no god belief”, well, that’s technically true, but that is still a remark on god belief.

• Gary Whittenberger

• Kodie

You must be illiterate. The question of whether god exists only comes up when people make claims that god exists, and need to be dealt with. You’re the one who wants to start at .5 with no information, well, claims that god exists is information. Without that information, the question doesn’t even arise to make a decision. I don’t know why I should take some crazy talk and give it 50% to start with.

• MNb

“claims that god exists is information”
Better still, both the words god and exist contain information on their own or we literally have no idea what we’re talking about. As soon as I start to use the word Grompon your first reaction will be “wtf?”
I suspect that Gary has a twisted view on what mathematicians mean with “default position”.

• Gary Whittenberger

Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.

• Kodie

You mean you don’t like when people call you out, and you are backing out of the conversation like the weenie you are.

• Gary Whittenberger

That’s just another uncivil response, totally uncalled for.

• Kodie

• MNb

Ah, Gary also thinks he excels at psychology and has proclaimed himself an internet shrink.
Of course incivility has many forms. One form is you neglecting what I write based on your very own terminology.
So according to your own non-method you are frustrated.

“Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.”

NOT in this case, it is a response to dishonesty on YOUR part.

• Ignorant Amos

The balloon head wants to start at 0.5 with a whole litany of information that he expects everyone to ignore, that’s part of the fuckin’ rockets major malfunction from the get go.

• Herald Newman

This is why the default starting position must be .5 probability.

This runs contrary to the null hypothesis which would tell us that there is no relationship between existence and other entities.

The proper starting point is the assumption that things don’t exist until we have evidence otherwise. Using probability theory for the existence of otherwise unknown entities is a category error.

• Gary Whittenberger

No, I don’t think this runs contrary to the null hypothesis. It is just a different approach. Please state what you believe is the null hypothesis with respect to God.

HN: The proper starting point is the assumption that things don’t exist until we have evidence otherwise. Using probability theory for the existence of otherwise unknown entities is a category error.

GW: I disagree. The proper starting point is the assumption that X might exist or it might not. Then we seek evidence to support or undermine each possibility. To proceed otherwise is to make a bias error.

• Herald Newman

Please state what you believe is the null hypothesis with respect to God.

That gods do not exist!

When examining a proposition between variables we assume there is no relationship between those variables. Once the null is overcome, then it is reasonable to say that we have some reason to believe the relationship actually exists.

• Gary Whittenberger

You didn’t answer my request. I said with respect to “God.”

In this case what are the two variables?

• Herald Newman

Existence, and God are the two variables.

• Gary Whittenberger

No, that doesn’t work. One variable might be dichotomous — God exists vs. God does not exist.

• Joe

God exists vs. God does not exist.

• Gary Whittenberger

No, we should not start that way. Either God exists or he does not, so when investigating this subject we should start with P=.5.

If after completing the investigation of God, you wish to investigate other gods, then we must look at them one at a time, using p=.5 again.

One of the best investigators I know of is Joe Nickel. He always starts with a very even-keel neutrality. That’s they way we should start with the God queston.

• Kodie

Why would you give ‘god exists’ 50% to start with? You start knowing nothing, and have to conjure up the very basic idea of a god from nothing indicating a god. You start by imagining something that you had no idea to imagine and then granting it a full 50% chance of existing. That’s absurd.

• Gary Whittenberger

I take the idea of “God” provided by half the world’s population and most of the world’s theologians, make sure it is concise and understandable, and use that.

Either this God exists or it doesn’t. There are only two possibilities here. If you can think of any possibilities more regarding this single god, then let me know. Given these two logical possibilities, we must start with a .5 probability that God exists, and work from there. It is not absurd at all. It is rational.

https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c4e3bbea2d1e4d81dbd3798980be2ee8b39f893fee5d1d2b81b76b5e7ba184e1.jpg “I take the idea of “God” provided by half the world’s population”

Yet, no two have the same idea of “God”

“make sure it is concise and understandable, and use that.”

There is no such thing.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes they do. Yes there is.

• Kodie

That’s only one version of god. You’re saying there’s a 50% chance that the Christian god exists in some form, even though there are many versions of him, and not even counting all the other descriptions of a deity or committee of deities? You really aren’t arguing your point very well. You are using the information “lots of people believe in this character called god”, and granting that, on no basis, 50%.

• Gary Whittenberger

I think I’m doing a good job of explaining these ideas, but for some reason you aren’t understanding them.

I’m only talking about one god. It’s name is “God.” I provided you with a good definition of it. Why do you keep talking about other gods? They are irrelevant.

Also, I’m saying that either God exists or he doesn’t. Therefore, at the start we should set the default probability of God’s existence at .5. Then we should conduct an investigation revise the original probability upward or downward, depending on the results.

• Kodie

You’re doing a great job of explaining some invalid horseshit.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

I think I’m doing a good job of explaining these ideas, but for some reason you aren’t understanding them.

You are doing a fine job of explaining yourself. The problem isn’t a lack of understanding, it’s that you’re just wrong.

• Gary Whittenberger

Thank you for the compliment. But on your last claim, I disagree. I think you are just wrong.

Look, I’ve discussed this issue in excruciating detail with seven or eight persons on this thread. You are not saying anything new. I have grown weary of the topic.

” I have grown weary of the topic.”

Finally, you are tired of being wrong.
What took you so long?

“I’m only talking about one god. ”

Yes, YOUR ‘God’, you’ve already agreed that no two people have the same view of “God”

You’ve NEGLECTED the other 4,499,999,999 other Gods.

Again .5/4.5 BILLION

• JustAnotherAtheist2

You’re right, after reading through the thread, I now see that I’m repeating stuff you’ve already heard.

You’re understanding of statistics and probability remains completely wrong, but I was mistaken in thinking my comments might be helpful.

Hey, we’ve all tried to help Gary, but you need to understand that Gary as a whole book invested in his inaccuracies, he is now dependent on these inaccuracies.

• Gary Whittenberger

Our (Unwin, Stenger, and my) understanding of statistics, probability, and epistemology is correct. If you think more about it, I think you will come to our position. I was not mistaken in thinking your comments would not be helpful.

Also, I recommend that you read Unwin’s book. Although he is right about starting with .5, the rest of his analysis on the existence of God is seriously flawed.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

I’m willing to grant the useless 50/50 split, but it doesn’t help your argument since “god” still isn’t 0.50.

1) Something exists “outside” the universe. 0.50
2) That something is alive. 0.50

We are already maxed out at 0.25 with the most simplistic definition of god. This probability then drops by at least 50% with every characteristic you add.

So, even if you’re right, you’re wrong.

• Gary Whittenberger

Sounds like we are in agreement now. We start with the .5, we collect evidence or information, and then we revise the probability estimate, then we collect more evidence or information, and revise again. That is the way the Bayes’ approach is supposed to work.

After investigating the existence of God we end up with a very low probability of his existence. Unwin ended up with a high probability, but Stenger and I ended up with a very low probability. So, it depends on what data you put into the equation.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

Not really, I’m just granting that someone dishonest can utilize uninformed 0.5 when there is no reason to do so, and still be wrong about it.

You seem to have missed the point that god can never start at 0.5.

• Gary Whittenberger

It sounded like you were agreeing with me. Oh well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. You think I am mistaken, and I think you are mistaken.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

It sounded like you were agreeing with me

It did?

I will gladly concede error that apparently 0.5 is the prior for wholly uninformed criteria. However, you are still mistaken since “god” entails multiple criteria, so his prior must be halved for each one. This was explained in the post that you strangely interpreted as agreement.

I also object to your use of “investigation” since no scientific inquiry would ever follow that path. If you think I’m wrong, then please provide one of the following:

1) An inquiry that was benefited by starting at an uninformed prior when an informed prior was available.
2) An inquiry that was aided by utilizing an uninformed prior rather than simply acknowledging ignorance and searching for evidence.

• Gary Whittenberger

I didn’t say “scientific inquiry.” I said “investigation” and “collecting evidence or information.”

The starting assumption by Unwin, Stenger, and myself is based on logic and proper epistemology.

Look, you aren’t saying anything that the other objectors haven’t said. We just disagree and I see no hope that either of us will persuade the other.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

The starting assumption by Unwin, Stenger, and myself is based on logic and proper epistemology.

It is not proper epistemology to revert to uninformed priors when informed priors are available. I don’t for a second belive you are stupid enough to think this.

I didn’t say “scientific inquiry.” I said “investigation” and “collecting evidence or information.”

In what way is “collecting evidence or information” for an “investigation” distinct from the scientific method?

We just disagree

So you disagree that god has more than one characteristic?

• Ignorant Amos

Watch the whole thing for an idiots guide on BT.

Or go to time stamp circa 35:00 to see an explanation as to why your approach is fucked up.

• Ignorant Amos

Sounds like we are in agreement now.

Liar!

We start with the .5, we collect evidence or information, and then we revise the probability estimate, then we collect more evidence or information, and revise again.

Utter ballix.

That is the way the Bayes’ approach is supposed to work.

Citation. Otherwise it’s as we already know, you are pulling this outta yer arse and know fuck all about BT.

• MNb

“That is the way the Bayes’ approach is supposed to work.”
Not at all. An a priori probability of 0,5 can be garbage like any value can be and to Bayes’ Theorem “garbage in, garbage out” also applies. I checked it with my son recently, who studies math. The a priori probabilities depend on background knowledge. Words like “god” already contain background knowledge. That has been told to you before for several times. You are utterly rude to systematically neglect this. Instead you repeat your assertions like a Harikrishna saying his mantras. I very much prefer IA throwing a fuck off to me, because he always has a reason for it.

• Ignorant Amos

Also, I recommend that you read Unwin’s book.

Why should anyone read a book that you readily admit you believe is seriously flawed? You’re a fuckin’ rocket Gary.

Although he is right about starting with .5, the rest of his analysis on the existence of God is seriously flawed.

ALL of his BT analysis is seriously flawed, demonstrably so.

• Ignorant Amos

Now you are just plain lying.

You have not discussed this in excruciating detail with anyone here. You have asserted you’re position based on accepting the error of others, and have ignored all the rebuttals and evidence to the contrary.

“I’m only talking about one god. ”

Yes, YOUR ‘God’, you’ve already agreed that no two people have the same view of “God”

You’ve NEGLECTED the other 4,499,999,999 other Gods.

Again .5/4.5 BILLION

• MNb

“the idea of “God”
If you think that this doesn’t affect the a priori probability you should

a) think twice;
b) study logic and probability calculation.

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree with you. I have thought more than twice about this and I have studied logic and probability.

• Ignorant Amos

I disagree with you.

And you are still wrong.

Which rules out ignorance as an excuse, leaving stupidity.

• TheNuszAbides

… leaving stupidity.

would it be unpardonably rose-tinted of me to suggest incompetence instead?

• epeeist

Or possibly intransigence.

• TheNuszAbides

incorrigibility?

• Herald Newman

In general propositions are framed framed in the positive. When we start talking about existential questions they are framed as “does X exist”, and it’s generally quite silly to ask “does X not exist,” because it buries the assumption that X does exist. In that respect, the null hypothesis assumes that existential propositions are false, and any alternate hypothesis can only be established with sufficient evidence.

So yes, this does work, and we start off assuming that God does not exist. Your .5 starting probability is nonsense in light of the null hypothesis.

• Gary Whittenberger

I am very familiar with the concept of the null hypothesis. I’m not sure that this framework is applicable for the God question. Please present some scientific examples where the null hypothesis framework is applicable and then formulate the God issue in the same manner. I’m not yet convinced this is possible.

Here is a related example where the null hypothesis is relevant: If God exists, then the rate of improvement in heart conditions will be equal to or greater for the prayed-for group than the rate of improvement for the non-prayed-for group at the .05 level of significance.

I think that works, but I really don’t see how you can apply this framework to a straight-up question about the existence of God.

• Herald Newman

I’m not sure that this framework is applicable for the God question.

In a scientific framework, no strictly speaking, it’s not, because the God question makes no real testable predictions, and cannot be subjected to science. There is no way to verify that a supernatural entity exist without a way to investigate the supernatural, which we lack.

If God exists, then the rate of improvement in heart conditions will be equal to or greater for the prayed-for group than the rate of improvement for the non-prayed-for group at the .05 level of significance.

What you’ve described is how a scientist would setup a test to demonstrate a relationship between prayer, and a testable effect in the real world. The first part of the statement is unscientific because science could not establish that God was actually the reason that prayers improved heart conditions. We may be able to establish that prayer does improve heart conditions, but we wouldn’t be able to ascribe supernatural reasons for it.

I think that works, but I really don’t see how you can apply this framework to a straight-up question about the existence of God.

Agreed, this specific framework doesn’t really work because God isn’t (at least to most theists) a natural entity. We don’t have any reliable framework to test the supernatural. The best we can do is falsify claims that God is necessarily the reason for some effect we see. That doesn’t mean that the null hypothesis doesn’t work as a general epistemic tool.

All this being said, any positive stated proposition has a null that effectively says that the proposition is not true. In your above example our null is that prayer doesn’t affect heart conditions of the people being prayed for, and we’ve setup conditions by which we will accept that the null is false. Even if we don’t know a way to falsify the null hypothesis, that doesn’t mean that we cannot use the same methodology as part of a rational epistemology.

Let me put this another way. There are an infinite number of positive propositions that I can come up with, but only a finite number of them are actually going to be true (where “truth” is measured by how well the empirical predictions match up with observed reality). Many of those propositions will have no way to be tested, and it stands to reason that of all the propositions that one can come up with, they’re almost all going to be false. This is a good reason for why we start with the assumption that any (positive) proposition is false until demonstrated to be true.

Does God exist? Knowing absolutely nothing else about the the proposition, I start with the assumption that the proposition is false. How would I be convinced that the proposition is true? I don’t know, and frankly it’s not my problem, but we do run into all kinds of problems because the proposition itself is essentially meaningless because, as a synthetic proposition, it gives rise to no empirically testable predictions. It’s been specifically mangled into something that cannot be tested, or falsified.

• Gary Whittenberger

GW1: I’m not sure that this framework is applicable for the God question.

HN2: In a scientific framework, no strictly speaking, it’s not, because the God question makes no real testable predictions, and cannot be subjected to science.

GW2: I disagree. There are testable predictions.

HN2: There is no way to verify that a supernatural entity exist without a way to investigate the supernatural, which we lack.

GW2: I disagree. We have ways to investigate claims of the supernatural. I recommend to you Victor Stenger’s book: “God: The Failed Hypothesis.”

GW1: If God exists, then the rate of improvement in heart conditions will be equal to or greater for the prayed-for group than the rate of improvement for the non-prayed-for group at the .05 level of significance.

HN2: What you’ve described is how a scientist would setup a test to demonstrate a relationship between prayer, and a testable effect in the real world. The first part of the statement is unscientific because science could not establish that God was actually the reason that prayers improved heart conditions. We may be able to establish that prayer does improve heart conditions, but we wouldn’t be able to ascribe supernatural reasons for it.

GW2: But philosophy does the preliminary work (“If God exists, then…) and then we use science to wrap it up.

HN2: I think that works, but I really don’t see how you can apply this framework to a straight-up question about the existence of God.

GW2: I just showed you how philosophy and science can be combined to address the question of the existence of God. It works wonderfully!

HN2: Agreed, this specific framework doesn’t really work because God isn’t (at leas t to most theists) a natural entity. We don’t have any reliable framework to test the supernatural. The best we can do is falsify claims that God is necessarily the reason for some effect we see. That doesn’t mean that the null hypothesis doesn’t work as a general epistemic tool.

GW2: The framework works if applied in the way I described, but not in the way you started with. When I asked you how to use null hypothesis testing with this issue, your response was totally inadequate.

HN2: All this being said, any positive stated proposition has a null that effectively says that the proposition is not true. In your above example our null is that prayer doesn’t affect heart conditions of the people being prayed for, and we’ve setup conditions by which we will accept that the null is false. Even if we don’t know a way to falsify the null hypothesis, that doesn’t mean that we cannot use the same methodology as part of a rational epistemology.

GW2: I’ve showed you a specific way in which null hypothesis testing can be used to address the God question.

HN2: Let me put this another way. There are an infinite number of positive propositions that I can come up with, but only a finite number of them are actually going to be true (where “truth” is measured by how well the empirical predictions match up with observed reality). Many of those propositions will have no way to be tested, and it stands to reason that of all the propositions that one can come up with, they’re almost all going to be false. This is a good reason for why we start with the assumption that any (positive) proposition is false until demonstrated to be true.

GW2: I don’t think that is a good way to proceed. Take each proposition one by one. Figure out how it can be tested. Then test it. Nevertheless, sometimes the initial probability is .5.

HN2: Does God exist? Knowing absol utely nothing else about the the proposition, I start with the assumption that the proposition is false.

GW2: I think that is the wrong way to start, and I’ve given you reasons for my position. I’m sorry that you are not persauded.

HN2: How would I be convinced that the proposition is true? I don’t know, and frankly it’s not my problem, but we do run into all kinds of problems because the proposition itself is essentially meaningless because, as a synthetic proposition, it gives rise to no empirically testable predictions. It’s been specifically mangled into something that cannot be tested, or falsified.

GW2: I totally disagree with both points you’ve made here. First, it is your problem! I think you have an ethical obligation to specify what would persuade you that God exists JUST AS the believer has an ethical obligation to specify what would persuade him that God does not exist. Secondly, the existence of God can be tested. When it is tested, it is undermined or falsified!

” If Ganesh exists, then the rate of improvement in heart conditions will
be equal to or greater for the prayed-for group than the rate of
improvement for the non-prayed-for group at the .05 level of
significance.”

• Gary Whittenberger

That’s not necessarily true. You’d first have to provide a reliable, detailed, coherent definition of “Ganesh” before we could get started.

• Joe

Why, doesn’t Ganesh either exist or not exist?

• Gary Whittenberger

I don’t know what you mean by “Ganesh.” Define it.

Why doesnt ANYTHING and EVERYTHING either exist or not exist?

• Gary Whittenberger

Some things exist and some things don’t exist. But sometimes it is prudent to start from the beginning with certain claims of existence, like the existence of God.

” But sometimes it is prudent to start from the beginning with certain claims of existence, like the existence of God.”

Once the evidence is present, ignoring it is dishonest.
But THAT is what religion is all about.

• Gary Whittenberger

You are making a straw man argument.

“. But sometimes it is prudent to start from the beginning with certain claims of existence, like the existence of God.”

WHY is a claim of MAGIC, deserving of Special Circumstances?

• Joe

I don’t know either. That’s why we should start at 50%, right?

• Gary Whittenberger

If you can’t even define it, then I’m not interested in discussing it. When theists can’t give a sound definition of “God,” I lose interest too.

• Michael Neville

Ganesh, also known as Ganesha, Ganapati, Vinayaka and Binayak, is one of the best-known and most worshiped deities in the Hindu pantheon. He’s the one with the elephant’s head.

• Gary Whittenberger

Summarize his nature, properties, and traits, please.

• Michael Neville

“Why, doesn’t Ganesh either exist or not exist?”

Because Jesus………..

• Joe

He does seem to make exceptions for everything except the Christian God. But we’re the ones that have a bias?

Of course, that the christian dishonestly showing.

• Joe

I could be wrong, but I think this person also capitalized the Christian God but is careful when he says “gods don’t exist”.

Maybe I was mistaken, but that’s a common tactic by undercover theists. They can get away with saying godss, plural, don’t exist because they have faith in the “one true God.”

“That’s not necessarily true.”

Then it is not necessarily false.
Back to 50-50, right?

• Gary Whittenberger

If you can’t provide a definition of “Ganesh,” then I’m not interested in talking about it.

but isn’t EVERYTHING 50-50 using ‘your’ ‘method’?

Besides, you want to talk about God and yet there are 4.5 BILLION DIFFERENT views on God and you havent provided a definition that fit all those 4.5 BILLION views.

You cant provide a definition of “God”, yet you seem to be interesting in talking about it.

• Kodie

You have been by here before, and I think you are a liar for Jesus.

• Yeah – Occam’s Razor suggests “liar for Jesus” is most likely. Then again, Hanlon’s Razor suggests he’s just REALLY confused. Personally, I suspect he’s just a troll who’s messing with us as some kind of twisted pseudo-psychological experiment.

• Gary Whittenberger

I participate on the Friendly Atheist blog fairly frequently. Calling me “a liar for Jesus” is an uncivil comment and false. I am an atheist.

• Joe

Well, there’s a 50% chance you’re a Christian, right?

• Gary Whittenberger

You should start with that assumption and then look at the evidence and revise the starting default probability.

• Joe

That probability is rising the more this conversation continues.

• Gary Whittenberger

No, that probability is declining the more this conversation continues.

No, that is ‘faith’, you should look at the evidence and make a hypothisis.

• Gary Whittenberger

I don’t have any faith. I suggest you read Unwin’s book. It might help you understand this better than I have been able to.

Why would I want to read a book to know what is obvious.

If it were different you’ld be able to explain.

There is no evidence.

• Gary Whittenberger

Sure there is! But it’s poor, inadequate, or equivocal.

• Joe

We don’t have any data on a god existing, so we would start with much lower than 0.5.

• Gary Whittenberger

No, we start with two logical possibilities: either God exists or he does not.

We then begin our investigation and adjust the .5 probability as we go along.

• Kodie

You presume we are starting at the wrong end of investigation; your’e a liar for Jesus.

• Ignorant Amos

Not using BT ya don’t.

Displaying your asininity on the subject.

You are doing what the religious rhubarbs do and it is erroneous. Repeating the mistake makes you look silly. Ya don’t want to look silly do ya?

Swinburne never says what his prior probability of God is, except that it is higher than all other possible explanations. Unwin starts with a prior probability of 0.50 (even odds). But that would only make sense if you start by disregarding all prior evidence of science and history; which requires you to put all that evidence back in on the other end. They don’t. And even then, you can only logically get to a 50/50 prior if you start with a definition of God that does not presuppose any theological assumptions about him—like that he’s good or evil; or all powerful and all knowing, or limited; or even a person or not. Unwin & Swinburne both fail to ever meet this condition, although they fail in different ways. In Swinburne’s case, he simply never shows that his theism has a higher prior than the simplest nontheistic alternative. He never even discusses any.

That makes their starting point already bogus. It would be bogus even if they were to do this using standard Aristotelian syllogistic logic. It doesn’t become more credible the moment they call it Bayesian. That’s just a fancy cover for what the rest of us call bullshit. Like “Creation Science” or “Compassionate Conservatism.” Prior probabilities can’t just be whatever you want them to be. They have to be justified. And not only that. You also have to account for the consequences of the way you build out your Bayesian model. Swinburne and Unwin violate both conditions.

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12814

ETA missing second paragraph.

• Gary Whittenberger

If you could make your points without including uncivil communications, then we might have a little chance at a good discussion. But at this point, I am pessimistic.

Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.

• Ignorant Amos

Yawn…your cop out line is getting boring.

If you can’t rebut the points I’m pointing out, just say so….or don’t, we can all see ya can’t anyway.

• “I recommend that you read Unwin’s book. It is short and well articulated…”

Yes, I’ll read Unwin’s book, right after I’ve read the rest of the books of all the other charlatan Christian apologists. In the meantime, if I want to read an honest book that uses Bayes’ Theorem to assess religious claims, I’ll go for Richard Carrier’s “On the Historicity of Jesus”. Spoiler – he concludes that he probably didn’t exist.

• TheNuszAbides

Gary seems to think that his book has an ideal audience of Very Intellectual And Thoughtful Abrahamicists who can be productively engaged – somehow. He doesn’t seem willing to touch on whether Carrier [e.g.] has already done a handy job of applying the Bayesian toolkit to the core of ‘New Testament’ theology; he doesn’t seem interested in even acknowledging Carrier’s existence – on this page anyway.

• Kodie

So that is actually some information for you to work with, that you’re pretending is a vacuum, and nothing to weigh in on the tooth fairy one way or the other. In fact, you have every reason to believe the tooth fairy does not exist. Who are you going to ask for more information, kids or adults? And you think any adults believe there is a tooth fairy?

• Joe

Personally, I would start any investigation into the unknown, not with Bayesian analysis, but with the question “What is the tooth fairy”.

After I’d done my background research (Grimm’s Fairy Tales, that awful movie starring The Rock….) I’d feel more comfortable about assigning odds of its existence.

• Ignorant Amos

Bingo!

Gary has already given us a list of godly attributes, that is information enough to allow for a less than 50% probability starting point.

If all we had was the word god as a starting point, then 50/50, yes or no, is not unreasonable. But that isn’t how this works. We start with some meaning to the word we are using. Even the capital “G” is information. Elsewhere Gary has used the descriptor “he”…as in “he exists”…well that has just effected the probability by half again.

So, the big “G” god, that is a he, with the list of attributes provided as to the meaning of god by Gary, and straight away there is information to tilt the yes or no answer and moving the starting position beyond .5.

The no information god of the .5 starting point is meaningless, because there is an impossible number of conceivable concepts of god, which is why starting at .5 is stupid.

• Max Doubt

“If all we had was the word god as a starting point, then 50/50, yes or no, is not unreasonable. But that isn’t how this works. We start with some meaning to the word we are using. Even the capital “G” is information. Elsewhere Gary has used the descriptor “he”…as in “he exists”…well that has just effected the probability by half again.”

Gary is altogether unreasonable – and dishonest. He has abysmally failed to support his point outside of simple insistence and assertion. When people remind him that he’s wrong, he tries to redefine the “god exists” claim such that rejecting the claim automatically means claiming gods don’t exist. Now he’s pushing people to respond as if they’re making that opposing claim when in fact they aren’t. He doesn’t get the idea of burden of proof. He wants to start the “god exists” discussion by giving the claimants a 50% leg up they haven’t earned.

I’m almost convinced that he’s not just a shitty atheist liar with a severe misunderstanding about how to critically and reasonably analyze a claim, but that he might be even more dishonest – he might be an even shittier Christian liar. He’s using shitty Christian arguments, trying to take ground he hasn’t earned, attributing atheists with a position we generally don’t hold, and when he can’t gain any traction, crying that everyone who vehemently disagrees with him is being uncivil. He’s got that playing the victim act all shined and polished.

There are not opposing claims in the “gods exist” discussion. There is a claim and there is a rejection of that claim. Gary is too stubborn and too dishonest to acknowledge that his half-way starting point is unreasonable, so now he’s simply redefining the god he believes in to have a 50/50 probability of existing. He is dishonestly defining his god in such a way that he can’t be wrong. He makes absolutely ridiculous atheist arguments, but his Christian position – other than he won’t admit he believes gods exist – is impeccably consistent and predictable.

• Ignorant Amos

100%….he is too stupid to be a critical and rational thinking atheist…his way is that of the pious fraudulent Christian who lies for Jesus.

• TheNuszAbides

he might be an even shittier Christian liar.

i’m taking as a given that he has indeed written something titled “God Wants You to Be an Atheist” – but I thus far can’t be arsed to even check up on him, because as you say, his demonstrations as to whether or not he can take criticism and/or advance discussion or argument, every damn time he turns up, are abysmal-to-nonexistent.
he seems like he could empty lots of his hot air into, say, a New Covenant Group hangout, without being told off or his invitation revoked – but at least in a verbal-exchange environment, his obstinate resistance to even acknowledging substantive refutation would be that much more blatant.

• Gary Whittenberger

After doing a competent investigation, I concluded that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist.

Look, 4.5 billion people believe that God exists. We should model for them how a competent investigation is done. This means starting from the undecided position, with a default probability of God’s existence set to .5, and work from there.

If you believe that God does not exist, do you have a burden of rational demonstration?

• Kodie

That is information. A lot of people think it is a good reason to believe in god. You start with no information and have to invent god just to have something to pretend there is to decide.

• Gary Whittenberger

No, we start with the claims of others that are presented to us and go from there.

You didn’t answer my final question: If you believe that God does not exist, do you have a burden of rational demonstration?

• Kodie

I do not.

• Gary Whittenberger

Do you believe that God does not exist?

If you believe that God does not exist and you believe you do not have a burden of rational demonstration, then why do you think you don’t?

• Kodie

I didn’t come up with atheism. Someone said there’s a god, and I don’t believe them.

• MNb

Do you believe that square circles exist? That the Grompon exists?

If you believe that square circles and the Grompon exist and you believe you do not have a burden of rational demonstration, then why do you think you don’t?

• Gary Whittenberger

Define “Grompon.”

• Ignorant Amos

Do you know how crazy you sound?

Do you have the burden of rational demonstration for everything you do not believe exists when debating with somene who does?

Why do you think the burden lies with the negative position?

If I were asked to prove that Zeus and Poseidon and Hera and the rest of the Olympians do not exist, I should be at a loss to find conclusive arguments. ~Bertrand Russell

That said, let’s say I accept the burden of proof in the nonexistence for Christian God question.

Modus tollens….”The inference rule modus tollens validates the inference from P implies Q and the contradictory of Q to the contradictory of P.”

God is MIA…where he/she/it should not, ergo no reason to believe in existence.

A common objection to atheism is that it is impossible to “prove a negative.” This objection is exposed as a myth: it is possible to prove a negative, and several examples are provided in the articles by Carrier, Lowder, and Vuletic. It is therefore illegitimate to rule out, a priori, the possibility of a logical argument for the nonexistence of God. More to the point, one does not need to be omniscient in order to argue for God’s nonexistence. Therefore, the arguments for atheism cannot be dismissed out-of-hand. If we are going to keep an open mind, we need to seriously consider the the arguments for atheism on their own merits.

Proving a Negative

Christian Theism in its most basic sense entails observations that would necessarily be made by everyone everywhere and at all times, and thus it is as easily disproven as the alien in the bathtub. For instance, God is theoretically omnipresent, and granted us the ability to know him (to feel his loving presence, etc.), yet I have absolutely no sensation of any God or anything that would be entailed by a God, even though by definition he is within me and around me wherever I go. Likewise, God is theoretically the epitome of compassion, and also all-knowing and all-powerful and beyond all injury, yet I know that what demonstrates someone as compassionate is the alleviation of all suffering known to them and safely within their power to alleviate. All suffering in the world must be known and safely within the power of God to alleviate, yet it is still there, and since the Christian ‘theory’ entails the opposite observation, Christianity is false. Likewise, God theoretically designed the universe for a moral purpose, but the universe lacks moral features–animals thrive by survival of the fittest, not survival of the kindest, and the laws of physics are no respecter of persons, they treat the good man and the bad man equally. Moreover, the universe behaves like a mindless machine, and exhibits no intelligent action of its own accord, and there are no messages or features of a linguistic nature anywhere in its extra-human composition or behavior, such as we would expect if a thinking person had designed it and wanted to communicate with us.~ Richard Carrier

https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/theory.html

Is a Sound Argument for the Nonexistence of a God Even Possible?*

A sound argument for the nonexistence of a god is possible, if the concept of “God” in question is factually meaningful. I think this conclusion is one which even many theists should be willing to accept. After all, the mere possibility of a sound argument for the nonexistence of a god is logically compatible with theism; what theism requires is that there actually are no sound arguments for the nonexistence of God. ~Jeffery Jay Lowder

https://infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/ipnegep.html

https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b4daa8eb8f6cdde7dc6cef1fd33a8d0acc554ea42510fdbeea6ee4c3b3b5a9c2.jpg “Look, 4.5 billion people believe that God exists. ”

“If you believe that God does not exist, do you have a burden of rational demonstration?”

Ok, I take a go.

Throughout all human history, all God claims, literally trillions of God claims, ABSOLUTELY NONE have been demonstrated to be supernatural in cause.

• Gary Whittenberger

You still evaded the question. I don’t think you are interesting in having a serious conversation of these issues.

“After doing a competent investigation, I concluded that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist”

And you’ve concluded that God doesnt exist either.

So we are AGAIN, NOT at the beginning.
And since NO TWO people imagine God the same, so your equation is actually 0.5/4,500,000,000

” I don’t think you are interesting in having a serious conversation of these issues.”

But I am, I have demonstrated that ‘faith’ is an unreliable method to prove anything.

• Gary Whittenberger

But when we discuss the question with agnostics and theists we should go back to the beginning.

Different people hold a common concept of God, just as different people hold a common concept of a dog. Maybe very similar, but not identical. This could be proven by the scientific survey I suggested. We just differ on the predicted results.

I am not defending faith as a method.

“But when we discuss the question with agnostics and theists we should go back to the beginning.”

You cant go back to the beginning before there was evidence.

“Different people hold a common concept of God, just as different people
hold a common concept of a dog. Maybe very similar, but not identical”

So, just like I stated, you have NOT defined God, so AGAIN your .5 is really .5/4,500,000,000, IF YOU WANT TO START AT THE BEGINNING

• Gary Whittenberger

You have made several straw man arguments, misrepresenting my position. And you just keep making the same old points over and over again. We just disagree here, and I don’t see much value in continuing to respond to you.

this is no strawman, YOURS is the strawman.
You claim 52% agree with YOUR definition of God and none of them believes in anybody elses view of God.

” And you just keep making the same old points over and over again. ”

ONLY BECAUSE you keep lying and being DISHONEST.

“We just disagree here, and I don’t see much value in continuing to respond to you.”

Of course you dont after I disputed your claim, you’ve got nothing left but to LIE and CLAIM VICTIMIZATION

• Max Doubt

“Look, 4.5 billion people believe that God exists. We should model for them how a competent investigation is done. This means starting from the undecided position, with a default probability of God’s existence set to .5 “I don’t know”, and work from there.”

Fixed that for you.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

Ha! I just made almost this exact comment, just with a different quote.

“Look, 4.5 billion people believe that God exists.”

And yet no two believe in the same God…………….

So you are starting with 0.5/4,500,000,000

• Gary Whittenberger

I have asked them, and NO TWO see God the same way.

• MNb

“The use of Bayes Theorem is a useful approach to investigating the existence of anything.”
Even to the Bayes Theorem this principle applies: garbage in, garbage out. By no means you have shown that a probability “God exists” = 0,5 is anything but garbage.

• Gary Whittenberger

The default starting probability for God’s existence is .5. This is not garbage; this is rational.

“The default starting probability for God’s existence is .5”

For 1 person’s God, for 4.5 billion, you needed to divide your .5 by 4.5 BILLION to start NOW.

• To me, it never makes sense starting with a 50% probability, because boolean choices can trivially be divided into three, four, five, or a million contradictory choices.
And if each of those are equally probable, then their probability has to be a lot lower than 50%.

I feel the same whenever I hear people say “You can’t disprove it”, as if those are the magic words that make it a 50/50 proposition.
In fact, the only place this argument can go is that (all else being equal) everything is almost infinitely improbable.
Or maybe we should drop the assumption and start looking for some evidence?

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree with you for reasons I have already presented to others on this thread.

I feel the same whenever I hear people say “You can’t disprove it.” They are either correct or incorrect. At the start they have a .5 probability of being correct. The subsequent debate will involve a revision of that probability.

• If we truly know nothing about a probability, then it is meaningful to say that we know nothing.

I can’t see that it is meaningful to make any assumptions about the probability, particularly assumptions that will give us different answers depending on how we chose to present the question.

• Gary Whittenberger

Either God exists or he does not. Thus, before we collect any evidence, we are justified in assuming that the existence of God is .5 probable. This will be adjusted downward as we investigate the question.

• Greg G.

You are not justified in picking any number until you begin the investigation. The first factor is your starting point. You get as many factors as you can, all between 0 an 1 inclusive, and multiply them. If you do not have any factors to multiply, then you can take .5. It makes no sense to start with that number before you actually start if you are going to delete it as soon as you actually start.

• Gary Whittenberger

You certainly are justified in picking .5 and only .5 at the outset.

Multiplication is not warranted if the factors are not independent.

Besides, you replace or revise the .5, not delete it. It is the result of step 1.

• Max Doubt

“You certainly are justified in picking .5 and only .5 at the outset.”

No, you’re not. You don’t even know if the god whose existence you’re claiming is self contradictory. Whenever you’d like some help with your misunderstanding, you let us know. Be aware that it might be a bit uncomfortable because you’ll have to shake off some severely incorrect preconceived notions about the way science and reason work.

• Kodie

When are you going to start investigating the question?

• Max Doubt

“Either God exists or he does not. Thus, before we collect any evidence, we are justified in assuming that the existence of God is .5 probable.”

You don’t have enough information to make a probability statement one way or another. You haven’t even defined the terms of your claim. If you’re honest you have to say you don’t know. Would you like some help straightening out your misunderstanding?

• Cozmo the Magician

“everything is almost infinitely improbable.” Only aboard the the Spaceship ‘Heart of Gold’. The only ship powered by the infinite improbability drive which makes even the most unlikely things possible. Like traveling from Sol system to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Or even just getting from Albany, NY to NYC via Amtrak and arriving on schedule.

• Joe

“either god exists or not” does not automatically grant god a 0.5 probability of existing.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, it does AT THE BEGINNING OF AN INVESTIGATION.

• Greg G.

At the beginning, before doing any assessment, it doesn’t matter.

• Gary Whittenberger

Sure it does. You must follow the rules of rational thinking. An initial .5 probability is required from the logic of the possibilities.

Also, it is good to do this for practical reasons — to show the believers that you begin from an unbiased position.

• Greg G.

For rational thinking, you start with no opinion, not that it is 50-50. If you start with the assumption that a lottery ticket has a 50% chance of being a winner, for all practical purposes, nobody will think you are rational.

• Gary Whittenberger

For rational thinking, you start with no biased opinion. You start undecided. Either God exists or God does not exist. If you are undecided, then you set the starting probability at .5.

Nobody? Zero people? I doubt that. Some people think they are thinking rationally when they are not. Logic is a part of rationality. Minimizing bias is part of rationality.

Let me ask you this: If you claim that God does not exist, do you have a “burden of proof” or as I prefer to call it “a burden of rational demonstration”?

• Greg G.

The biggest lotteries in the US have 5 numbers drawn from one pool of numbers that cannot be drawn more than once and 1 number from another pool of numbers. We’ll say the first pool has the integers 1 through 75 and the second pool has 1 through 57.

The way to determine the odds of winning the jackpot is to start with the first number having 5 chances in 75 of matching one of the first set of numbers, multiplied by the 4 chances in 74 for the second, 3 chances in 73 for the third, 2 chances in 72 for the fourth, and 1 chance in 71 for the fifth, then 1 chance in 57 for the extra number. Then you multiply those fractions to get the odds of winning. Unless you do it your way and multiply by .5 because that was your initial assumption.

If a person knows nothing about lotteries, then they can’t even start with the idea of it being a winner or a loser. If they know a little about lotteries, how likely is it that they know only that it could be a winner or a loser without knowing that it is more likely to be a loser?

How do I know my wife is real? Do I start with 0.5 and work from there? When I factor in everything I know, it comes out to be about 0.9999…99 certainty but when I do it your way, it’s 0.4999…995 which is about the highest you can ever have with your method.

In the lottery odds, it is possible to determine the odds exactly unless you start with some factor pulled out of nowhere before you start calculating. Why start with a figure before you do any investigating if you are going to throw it out as soon as your do your calculation? You can’t use your initial .5 in the calculation without making the calculation off by a factor of two.

• Gary Whittenberger

With just a lottery ticket all you know is that you either have the winning ticket or you don’t. So, at that point you are justified in deciding that the probability of your having the winning ticket is .5. All you are doing in your post this time is providing new information which would be relevant in revising the .5 after investigation or research.

God exists or he doesn’t. Without further information, we are justified at setting the initial probability of God’s existence at .5.

You keep making the same kind of point. I find it unpersuasive.

I have already given you at least two reasons why you start with .5: 1) logic, 2) minimization of bias, 3) modeling proper behavior for others. You just don’t agree with these reasons. That’s fine. I don’t expect atheists to agree on all issues about epistemology and rational thinking.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

God exists or he doesn’t. Without further information, we are not justified in forming any conclusions about probability

FTFY.

No offense, but this is very remedial stuff. It would behoove you to at least understand basic concepts before making an argument.

• Gary Whittenberger

Sorry, but Unwin, Stenger, and I all disagree with you.

Do Unwin and Stenger IGNORE that there are AT LEAST 4.5 billion Gods out there?

• Ignorant Amos

There are NO gods out there.

But even if everyone believed there was one god…the one Gazzer described…the prior still wouldn’t be 0.5 using BT.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

Then they are wrong, too.

• Gary Whittenberger

Nope. The three of us are correct, and you are incorrect.

Then you can demonstrate, right?

• JustAnotherAtheist2

Mr. Dunning, allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Kruger.

“Nope. The three of us are correct, and you are incorrect.”

Demonstrate or you are a LIAR.

completely uninformed priors. No use of Bayes’ Theorem is valid that
starts that way. Informed priors, get completely different results. And
both Unwin and Swinburne input absurdly incorrect likelihoods for the
items of evidence they do include; and then exclude tons of
evidence that tells against their conclusion. Consequently, their use of
Bayes’ Theorem to prove God exists is total bullshit. When you put the
evidence back in that they leave out, and drop all their illogical
inferences, what you get, using Bayes’ Theorem honestly, is
exactly the opposite: on the evidence we actually now have, the
probability that any god exists (much less the weirdly specific gods of
either Unwin or Swinburne) is billions to one against. Even at best. And
really, honestly, it’s going to turn out to be trillions of times less
likely than even that—once you replace their likelihoods and priors,
with likelihoods and priors that are actually credible.”
https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12814

• Ignorant Amos

He has been told this…and shown the reasons why.

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12814

But he chooses to ignore this when it is pointed out.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

50/50 (the only logically credible place to start)

Hmmmm…. I guess I was wrong about the 50/50 default prior when no other information is available. That said, Gary is still wrong, because something beyond our universe would be 50/50, and that something being alive would be another. So even the most neutered definition of “god” tops out at 25%.

Gary is wrong because he uses ‘Faith’ to claim the 50/50 while ignoring the current evidence.

• Ignorant Amos

Of course…but we never start from a “no other information is available” position. These questions to arise in some vacuum. Gary has also provided a whole litany of attributes which are part of prior probability, which decimates that prior to a lot less than 0.25…he is too stupid a dopey clown to even know how stupid a dopey clown he comes across.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

Agreed, I just wanted to concede my error, even if it had no material effect on the discussion. 🙂

So again, this container of yours………..50/50 it contains an apple according to Gary.

Gary avoided this like a small pox blanket.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

LOL!

Interestingly, Gary admitted that the apple/no apple dichotomy did not automatically lead to 0.50 probability. He rightly pointed out the the top level dichotomy is empty/not empty with the question of whether the “not empty” container holds an apple falling further down the line with a smaller probability.

Why I find that interesting is that he’s yet to acknowledge that this has a perfect analog for god. “Empty/Not Empty” = “Supernatural/No Supernatural” and “Apple/No Apple” = “God/No God”.

“Why I find that interesting is that he’s yet to acknowledge that this has a perfect analog for god.”

Hint: He has a whole book invested on this kind of apologetics, he CAN’T afford to be honest NOW.

It is crazy how he wants to just ignore this and pretend it has nothing to do with his other, virtually identical claims.

completely uninformed priors. No use of Bayes’ Theorem is valid that
starts that way. Informed priors, get completely different results. And
both Unwin and Swinburne input absurdly incorrect likelihoods for the
items of evidence they do include; and then exclude tons of
evidence that tells against their conclusion. Consequently, their use of
Bayes’ Theorem to prove God exists is total bullshit. When you put the
evidence back in that they leave out, and drop all their illogical
inferences, what you get, using Bayes’ Theorem honestly, is
exactly the opposite: on the evidence we actually now have, the
probability that any god exists (much less the weirdly specific gods of
either Unwin or Swinburne) is billions to one against. Even at best. And
really, honestly, it’s going to turn out to be trillions of times less
likely than even that—once you replace their likelihoods and priors,
with likelihoods and priors that are actually credible.”
https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12814

• Ignorant Amos

Complete waste of time mate…I already tried that Carrier critique, more than once, he ignores it. Gaz prefers to accept the data presented in Unwin’s book, data that he readily admits is otherwise completely wrong in it’s analysis. Of course the fuckwit doesn’t realise that BT is a GIGO equation. He’s a rocket.

• MNb

Carrier sucks at Bayes’ Theorem as well, so for once GW was right to ignore it.

https://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/carriers-explanation-of-bayes-theorem-is-false/

But someone who thinks that the claim of the amateur Rene Salm defeats established archeology cannot be expected to care.

• Ignorant Amos

Where does Stenger state that the prior that a big “G” god exists is 50/50 using BT?

” 1) logic, ”

“2) minimization of bias,”
But you’ve MAXIMIZED bias by the inclusion of ‘Faith’ by claiming we MUST start at .5 BECAUSE we MUST ignore the evidence we already have. See 1) above

” 3) modeling proper behavior for others.”
This HAS to be modeling proper behavior for other “Gods” which you ignore virtually all the other 4.5 million perceptions of God.

Do us all a favor and SHOW YOUR WORK.
Demonstrate where we are wrong in our assessment of you and your ‘work’.

• Max Doubt

“For rational thinking, you start with no biased opinion. You start undecided.”

Undecided, with zero information.

“Either God exists or God does not exist. If you are undecided, then you set the starting probability at .5.”

” Either Ganesh exists or Ganesh does not exist. If you are undecided, then you set the starting probability at .5.”

• Gary Whittenberger

Yep, you set the initial probability at .5 and then investigate.

• MNb

For rational thinking you start with no biased opinion. Either square circles exist or square circles don’t exist. If you are undecided, then you set the starting probability at 0,5.

• Gary Whittenberger

The claim “Square circles exist” is a self-contradictory claim. We know it is false from the start. “God exists” is not a self-contradictory claim. It could actually be true.

• Max Doubt

“The claim “Square circles exist” is a self-contradictory claim. We know it is false from the start. “God exists” is not a self-contradictory claim.”

You haven’t defined the god of your claim. It may be a self contradictory claim. You don’t have enough information to establish probability one way or another, so you are just plain wrong to start with a 50/50 probability.

“It could actually be true.”

In exactly the same way as a square circle may be true, by defining it in such a way that it isn’t self contradictory.

How about we find you a science tutor? Why the reluctance to take me up on that offer? Do you simply not care about considering these things reasonably?

“The claim “Square circles exist” is a self-contradictory claim.”

Just as the claim the christian God exists is a self-contradictory claim.

• Gary Whittenberger

If you think so, then rationally demonstrate it.

1. Claimed to be All loving,
2. creates evil.
QED

• Gary Whittenberger

You are going outside the definition of God. The definition itself is not self-contradictory. “God is the creator of the universe.” and “God is perfectly moral.” are not self-contradictory. They could both be true at the same time. You have to bring in evidence about the world in order to conclude that God does not exist.

“You are going outside the definition of God. ”

How so?
By your claim, there are 4.5 BILLION definitions of God.
You havent defined all those.

” “God is perfectly moral.” are not self-contradictory.”
It is when God is not moral

” You have to bring in evidence about the world in order to conclude that God does not exist.”

I have already, TRILLIONS of God claims and not one scientifically verified.

1. Claim is All Knowing
2. Has to destroy everyone except Noah, his incestuous family and all the animals in the world except those who couldnt make to a homemade boat. Because he couldnt see how his creation would turn out

QED

• Max Doubt

“Either square circles exist or square circles don’t exist.”

Gary’s ability to reason is severely sub-par. For a square circle or a god he starts with “can it exist”? He thinks a square circle is self contradictory, so it can’t exist, so he wouldn’t start the truth probability at half ‘n’ half. Can a god exist? Well, by golly that’s self contradictory, too, unless you imbue it with magical powers. So how about a square circle with magical powers? Sure, why the hell not?

Once we’re talking about gods or whatever other magical shit we invent in our imaginations, it’s exactly as reasonable to give the “gods exist” claim a probability of 156/73 as 50/50. After all, we’ve transcended the bounds of reality; we’re in anything-goes territory before we even begin the discussion.

“Either God is created by man or God was not created by man”

• Gary Whittenberger

That’s not quite right. The concept of God was created by man.

“Let me ask you this: If you claim that God does not exist, do you have a
“burden of proof” or as I prefer to call it “a burden of rational
demonstration”?”

Trillions and trillions of God claims, NONE survive scientific scruntiny.

• Gary Whittenberger

No, I provided evidence.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

For rational thinking, you start with no biased opinion. You start undecided.

Agreed.

Either God exists or God does not exist

Uhhhhh…. True, but irrelevant.

If you are undecided, then you set the starting probability at .5.

And here’s where you demonstrate a significant gap in understanding. Probability does not default to even split among possibilities, it defaults to unknown.

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree. If you are undecided when there are two possibilities, the probability of one of the possibilities should be set at .5 before the collection of relevant evidence.

this ONLY applies to the ONE GOD, that YOU’VE defined, not the other 4,499,999,999 versions of God

.5/4.5 BILLION

• JustAnotherAtheist2

There is a container somewhere. We don’t know what size it is or what material it is made of. What are the odds that there is an apple inside?

“There is a container somewhere. We don’t know what size it is or what
material it is made of. What are the odds that there is an apple
inside?”

Let’s see

.5 divided by (all the container types suitable for an apple x numbers of sizes of containers suitable for an apple x viable materials to contain an apple).

Am I close?

• JustAnotherAtheist2

☺ No, what I was going for is that, given the information provided, it is impossible to form any conclusions about either possession or no.

Since there are only two possibilities and the negation of one necessitates the othet, what we can say is that -(-P – P) must equal 1.00. But the distribution is a complete unknown at this point.

I understand that, I was fun at Gary’s expense.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

• Gary Whittenberger

Either the container is empty or it has something in it. So, we should set the probability that the container is empty at .5. I don’t know the answer to your question. What do you think?

Look there is either an apple in the container or not, according to your “method” that is .5

• JustAnotherAtheist2

There are only two possibilities, apple or no apple. What is the probability that there is an apple?

• JAA2’s question is exactly the issue here. We have no knowledge. By your reasoning, we should start by assuming there is a .5 probability of the container being empty, a .5 probability that it contains at least one object, a .5 probability that it contains an apple, a .5 probability it contains a pear, a .5 probability that it contains only one apple, and a .5 probability that it contains at least 2 apples. I could go on, but that’s enough to show that the assumption leads to inconsistent results that say more about how the question was posed than they say about the answer.

Much better just to acknowledge that without the relevant knowledge we cannot assume anything about the probability. There is nothing biased in saying “I don’t know”.

• Gary Whittenberger

God either exists or it does not. And so, before conducting an investigation, we are justified in setting the starting probability estimate that God exists at .5. This is the agnostic position with respect to God.

Analogously, either the basket is empty or it is not empty. And so, before looking into the basket, we are justified in setting the starting probability estimate that the basket is empty at .5. This is the agnostic position with respect to the basket.

I don’t see the problem with saying “I don’t know if God exists or not, and so before I start investigating, I’m starting with a provisional probability of .5.” In fact, I think that is the proper way to proceed. Unwin (a Christian) and Stenger (an atheist) agree.

• You have chosen merely to repeat the unsubstantiated assertion that I (and others here) have already rejected, without addressing any of the inconsistencies I raised in my comment.

• Gary Whittenberger

I have repeated a substantiated assertion and the reasons for it. I have rebutted all the objections. You just don’t agree with my rebuttals. Well, I don’t agree with your objections.

• MNb

All you do is endlessly repeating
1. “neutrality hence an a priori probability of 0,5”
2. “god is a coherent concept”

without providing any attempt to argue for it. Instead you prefer to neglect anything brought up against them.
In my view that’s ruder than any fuck off thrown to you by IA or Kodie.

• Max Doubt

“In my view that’s ruder than any fuck off thrown to you by IA or Kodie.”

Gary uses that childish “you’re being mean to me” routine in order to manipulate the conversation to lean his way. He has made an unsupportable assertion, and like any good Christian he wants to start the god claim half way up without earning the first half. Like any good Christian he loves him some persecution. Like any good Christian, when you explain why he’s wrong, rather than address your point he’ll lie and insist you haven’t offered an explanation. His abject dishonesty is indeed far more uncivil than anyone else’s calling him out for being a dick.

Hell, I’ve shredded his silly arguments – and busted him in his persistent dishonesty – so thoroughly and so often, he refuses to even address me. He’s doing the equivalent of stuffing his fingers in his ears, stomping, and pretending I’m not even here.

• MNb

GW probably is not a christian.
I’m dead serious. Call me an asshole (IA did once), tell me why and we have a discussion. Continuously refusing to address what people write makes me sick.

” I have rebutted all the objections.”

YOU HAVE LIED.

.5/4.5 BILLION

• Max Doubt

“I have repeated a substantiated assertion and the reasons for it.”

Your “reasons” are that you just damned well think you’re right.

“I have rebutted all the objections.”

No, you absolutely have not. You have ignored them all. You have asserted that the objections aren’t valid. In dozens of cases you have outright and willfully ignored the objections, intentionally, overtly, objectively, by pissing and moaning about how someone is being mean to you.

“You just don’t agree with my rebuttals.”

Your “rebuttals” are the equivalent of, “Nuh uh.”

“Well, I don’t agree with your objections.”

Maybe because you don’t have the honesty to admit that you’ve made a silly assertion that you can’t support? Seems to be a habit with you.

• MNb

The words “god”, “exist”, “basket” and “empty” contain background knowledge that determine the a priori probability of the statements. But you being uncivic will continue to neglect this point.

“we are justified in setting the starting probability estimate that God exists at .5. ”

.5/4.5 BILLION

• Max Doubt

“God either exists or it does not. And so, before conducting an investigation, we are justified in setting the starting probability estimate that God exists at .5. This is the agnostic position with respect to God.”

The agnostic position is, “I don’t know.”

“Analogously, either the basket is empty or it is not empty. And so, before looking into the basket, we are justified in setting the starting probability estimate that the basket is empty at .5.”

No, we’re not justified in taking any position on the matter other than, “I don’t know.”

“This is the agnostic position with respect to the basket.”

When you have no information, you can’t reasonably suggest a probability.

“I don’t see the problem with saying “I don’t know if God exists or not, and so before I start investigating, I’m starting with a provisional probability of .5.””

Of course you don’t see it. Although many people have explained the problem, you don’t see it because you’re being willfully ignorant.

“In fact, I think that is the proper way to proceed. Unwin (a Christian) and Stenger (an atheist) agree.”

When you start with no information, you can’t reasonably establish a probability. If someone else is making a claim that a god exists, the right place to start is, “Show me what you’ve got.” If you’re the one making the claim you start with, “Here’s the objective evidence,” or more honestly, “My claim cannot be objectively supported.” In neither case have you moved far enough in to start establishing probabilities.

• Greg G.

So it has a .5 chance of having one H2O molecule. A second molecule would have the same chance so the odds are .25. A third molecule of H2O would be .125. By the time you get to Avogadro’s number of molecules, the odds would be vanishingly small.

• Ignorant Amos

Not the question…try reading for comprehension?

• Joe

What difference would it make if we started from zero and increased the number for every new piece of evidence uncovered?

That would be my approach, and I’d use it for everything, from dark matter to unicorns. So please don’t accuse me of bias.

In your example, say we assign P=0.5, and the only things we find are a couple of minor points of evidence against god existing. We might end up with a P of 0.4, say, for something we have only have negative evidence for.

• Cozmo the Magician

OK, lets think about my chances of getting a blow job by a super model this afternoon. Do you REALLY think we should start at a 50% chance and adjust based on the chance of a super model being in my neighborhood (there might be one visiting), the chances of me meeting somebody new (could be a super model), the chance of her being impressed by the bulge in my pants (has happened many times), the chance of her enjoying giving BJs.. etc etc.. In that case we could say I have a much better chance than 50% of getting a BJ by super model today. Yet I would put any money on it.

• “OK, lets think about my chances of getting a blow job by a super model this afternoon. Do you REALLY think we should start at a 50% chance…”

Can we – just this once… please?

• Joe

How did it go? Did you get your BJ?

• Cozmo the Magician

That would be telling O_o

• Joe

Odds of 0.5 suggest that if you didn’t, you almost certainly will tomorrow.

• Cozmo the Magician

Yippie, something to look forward to!

• Joe

On a totally unrelated note, how are house prices in your area?

• Greg G.

I bet even Tom Brady has a less than 50% chance on any given day except for his birthday.

• Gary Whittenberger

I believe your approach is mistaken partly because it is biased and partly because it is illogical.

The scenario you describe at the end could happen. But so what? It doesn’t change how we should start.

• Ignorant Amos
• Gary Whittenberger

Would you like to make a point?

• Ignorant Amos

That the epistemological starting point on omni-theism, i.e. God, isn’t a .5 probability.

• Joe

Why is it biased?

• Gary Whittenberger

It is biased because you are favoring one outcome before you conduct the investigation.

• Joe

No I’m not.

We will end at the correct result either way, won’t we?

“We will end at the correct result either way, won’t we?”

Of course not, you’re not giving God a 50-50 chance.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes you are, if you start anywhere but .5. You and I will end up at a result less than .5, but probably not at the same number.

No it is YOU who WANT to ignore EVIDENCE and claim 50-50
You have bias that you demonstrate.

• Gary Whittenberger

You are making a straw man argument here. No, I don’t want to ignore evidence, but I want to start with an default probability of .5 and then collect the evidence.

No it is YOU who WANT to ignore EVIDENCE and claim 50-50.

And AGAIN it is .5 for EACH God, and there are 4.5 BILLION God views out there so it is AGAIN

5./4,500,000,000 NOT .5

” but I want to start with an default probability of .5 ”

But that ONLY covers AT MOST 1 definition of God, you still have 4,499,999,999 definitions to cover.

“But so what? It doesn’t change how we should start.”

You mean how we should HAVE started back in the beginning.

We are not at the beginning,so it is 0.5

• Gary Whittenberger

But we should start back at the beginning when we are discussing the problem with theists and agnostics.

The Oxford Dictionaries Online defines the scientific method as “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses”.[4] Experiments are a procedure designed to test hypotheses. Experiments are an important tool of the scientific method.[5] [6]

See AGAIN, you are trying to use ‘faith’ to demonstrate your .5, and the systematic observation that you formulate a hypothesis from and then test that hypothesis.

YOU are being DISHONEST, but what religion isnt?

BUT WE ARE NOT AT THE BEGINNING OF AN INVESTIGATION.

We are THOUSANDS of years and TRILLIONS of God claims into it.

• Gary Whittenberger

You are missing a central point. When we are discussing the problem with people who are undecided (agnostics) or the believers (theists), we should approach it AS IF we are at the beginning of an investigation.

“You are missing a central point. ”

No YOU are

“When we are discussing the problem with people who are undecided
(agnostics) or the believers (theists), we should approach it AS IF we
are at the beginning of an investigation.”

No, because we already have LOADS of information, we are NOT at the beginning.

• Gary Whittenberger

NO, you’ve avoided it.

So if your doctor wants to amputate your arm because of cancer, and one is ‘undecided’ on whether to have their arm amputated or not,
You should approach it as if you are at the beginning?
50%?

That sounds idiotic.

• Gary Whittenberger

Yes, you should begin with an open mind, low bias, and undecided. And then you should collect evidence to help you decide. Sounds rational to me.

“Yes, you should begin with an open mind, low bias, and undecided.”

Why should I ignore the evidence?

” And then you should collect evidence to help you decide. ”

The doctor has already collected the evidence.

“Sounds rational to me.”

sounds IRRATIONAL to me.

Yes, ignore the expert, ignore the evidence,

How is that being open minded?

Which is exactly the reason you go to the doctor in the first place.

• Gary Whittenberger

You are making another straw man argument.

How so?

you are the one who said to ignore the professional help you sought out.

• JustAnotherAtheist2

Actually, if we are really at the beginning then the odds are unknown. 50/50 is the product of an investigation, not a starting point.

• Gary Whittenberger

The idea of “really at the beginning” is not what Unwin, Stenger, and I mean by “at the beginning” in this context.

So give us your REDEFINED definition of ‘at the beginning’

• Max Doubt

“So give us your REDEFINED definition of ‘at the beginning'”

Gary will redefine “at the beginning” to mean “at whatever point the probability is determined to be 50/50, and if it never is 50/50, then whenever the hell he declares it so”.

It is AMAZING how much Gary uses religious techniques, such as HAVING to redefine simple words like ‘beginning’ to NOT mean beginning.
And how much Faith he inserts into his equation, IN SPITE of evidence, which he, like fundies, wants to dismiss and disregard as not relevant.

• Ignorant Amos

They are doing it wrong…and so are you for parroting them.

• Cozmo the Magician

Nope, logic would say we start at a probability of ZERO due to lack of any evidence. If there is ANY evidence to support the idea we could make that probability non zero. OTOH none of the things he claims would support the idea of ‘god’ (i’m guessing he means the buybull big sky daddy of zombie on a stick ‘god’) actually lend an credence to the concept. I could just as easily say the fact that I farted while shitting this morning supports the existence of invisible rainbow farting unicorns.

• Gary Whittenberger

Nope, logic would say that we start with the logical possibilities — either God exists or he does not. Then we collect evidence relevant to the hypothesis.

I provided a specific understandable definition of “God.” That is the hypothetical entity we are discussing.

Actually, the fact that you farted while shitting this morning DOES support the hypothesis that an invisible rainbow farting unicorn does exist. The problem is that it is equivocal evidence, not unequivocal evidence.

” That is the hypothetical entity we are discussing.”

100% hypothetical

• Cozmo the Magician

You sound very much like a troll I just blocked a while back. Same type of arguments, same word patterns. Evidence suggests you might be that same troll. Or just a fan.You did NOT provide a definition of god. You put forth a silly ‘thought experiment’ where you claimed that most peole would agree with a definition you might provide. In other words, you posted a little day dream that came out of your ass.

• Gary Whittenberger

Your history of blocking what you believed to be a troll is irrelevant and uninteresting.

I provided a definition of “God” not “god.”

Your last sentence is an uncivil communication. Maybe you should block yourself.

• Cozmo the Magician

Any definition you might have given would have described a god. I can describe a guy who wears a helmet, shoulder pads, a numbered uniform and runs around with other guys for fun/profit. I could be describing any one of MANY football players, or even just a fictional one in a video game, or a fiction video game representation that resembles a real life person with a similar name (IF I had specified a name). Since you are obviously a religious troll who likes to make BS statements w/o any evidence, BYE BYE. Go pester somebody else or crawl back under your bridge. You are blocked.

• Gary Whittenberger

I disagree. The examples you offer here are not gods. A god is a hypothetical supernatural intelligent agent.

The rest of your post here just consists of three uncivil communications which are totally uncalled for in a forum like this.

Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.

• Lark62

Actually, incivility is a fine response to a troll who declines to address substance.

• Gary Whittenberger

You aren’t addressing substance when you are making uncivil remarks and then presenting lame excuses for them. If you wish to talk substance, then leave out the uncivil communications!

• Kodie

Now you’re just lying! Plenty of remarks contained substantial and relevant responses to the crap you’re trying to float, you just willfully ignore it so you can pout about manners!

• Max Doubt

“Now you’re just lying! “

Lying is what Gary does best. Well, that and whine about how his feeling are hurt because someone had the audacity to vigorously disagree with his indefensible declarations.

• Max Doubt

“You aren’t addressing substance when you are making uncivil remarks and then presenting lame excuses for them. If you wish to talk substance, then leave out the uncivil communications!”

I repeatedly address the substance of your comments. Your response is to take a shit on me by lying to me and about me, and to willfully ignore my responses. So as far as your hollow criticism of other people’s uncivil communications, you’re being a hypocritical dick. You want a civil conversation? Stop lying, willfully ignoring, and changing the subject to your own little hurt feelings when someone shreds your silly assertions.

• Max Doubt

“The rest of your post here just consists of three uncivil communications which are totally uncalled for in a forum like this.”

Awwww, you poor little persecuted cry baby.

“Incivility is just a mask worn by persons frustrated with their own lack of an argument.”

Your habit of lying and willful ignorance is far less civil than any way anyone has treated you in any of these discussions. Are you suggesting that’s a mask you wear because you’re frustrated with your continued failure to offer a reasoned, cogent argument?

• Max Doubt

“Your history of blocking what you believed to be a troll is irrelevant and uninteresting.”

Your history of lying to, lying about, and willfully ignoring those who clearly and unequivocally show you how you’re wrong shows you have no interest in improving your misunderstanding.

• Greg G.

You sound very much like a troll I just blocked a while back. Same type of arguments, same word patterns. Evidence suggests you might be that same troll. Or just a fan.

Maybe you are thinking of skl who just popped back up after a three week absence. http://disq.us/p/1n89qcc is at the top of the comment list at the time of this posting.

• Lark62

Either there is a teapot orbiting Jupiter or there isn’t. Since there is no evidence, we will start with the assumption that there is a 50-50 probability of extraterrestrial teapots.

That’s how you sound.

• Gary Whittenberger

There is evidence but we should start with the assumption that the probability that there is a teapot orbiting Jupiter is .5 and then gather the relevant evidence, adjusting the probability accordingly.

“There is evidence”

” but we should start with the assumption that the probability that there is a teapot orbiting Jupiter is .5 ”

No we shouldnt, BECAUSE:

“There is evidence”

You keep TRYING to induce faith, where it is inappropriate.

• Lark62

LOL.

There is no evidence for extraterrestrial tea pots. Just like there is no evidence for extraterrestrial genocidal deities.

I think we should go with the odds being zippo bits until there is actual evidence in favor of the existence of either.

• Gary Whittenberger

Your emotional reaction of amusement (LOL) is not an argument.

“Your emotional reaction of amusement (LOL) is not an argument.”

Neither is yours, .5/4.5 billion

You have yet to correct yourself.

“There is no evidence for extraterrestrial tea pots.”

You are denying Faith, and being honest.
You will never get to .5 without ignoring the evidence and going with Faith.

• Max Doubt

“There is evidence but we should start with the assumption that the probability that there is a teapot orbiting Jupiter is .5 and then gather the relevant evidence, adjusting the probability accordingly.”

Your continued misunderstanding of the burden of proof is making you, well, keeping you looking like an idiot. I’ve offered several times to help you find a middle school science tutor to help you through your problem, but you seem to prefer lying and treating me like shit. Clearly you choose to remain uncivil rather than to remedy your misunderstanding. But, because you can’t say I’m not willing to help, my offer still stands. You ready to get that help you need?

• Ignorant Amos

I’m not too sure that’s the sort of help Gary should seek first.

“There is evidence”

The YOU claim we should IGNORE

You mean we should have ‘Faith’

In spite of the evidence.

This is THE problem with religious fundamentalism to begin with.
the REQUIREMENT of Faith, in spite of the evidence.

• Ignorant Amos

Nope…only a knuckle-dragging idiot will do that.

You’ve already lost this argument when you declared that the starting point of the dice throw isn’t 0.5…give it up Gary…edit you’re piece of shite book….quickly.

• epeeist

You’ve already lost this argument when you declared that the starting point of the dice throw isn’t 0.5

Long ago on the Guardian there was a creotard who declared that shaking four dice could give you any number from 1 to 24 with equal probability…

• MNb

The simple words “teapot”, “orbiting” and “Jupiter” contain way too much background information for your assumption.
But you being rude despite your complaints about others being unpolite will prefer to keep on neglecting this.

• Joe

Many of us have tried this approach, to no avail. Best of luck.

• Greg G.

That would be his position on the matter.

“WITH NO OTHER INFORMATION OR EVIDENCE, we are correct to start with the .5 probability.”

But we cant go BACK to then, we have information and evidence NOW.

• Idaho Spud

As the BuyBull can be proven to be false in many ways, and immoral in many ways it seems to me the probability of a loving god based on the bible must be false. Zero probability. An evil god, not quite zero.

• sandy

Nailed it Idaho Spud!

I’d put my money on the entire universe being nothing but the science fair project of a rather warped alien kid.

• Cozmo the Magician

I think Stephen King wrote something about that… Something about a dome.

• David B Teague

A mathematical model (which is what you posit here) to be meaningful, the hypotheses must connection to reality. None of yours do. Your argument pulls numbers out of your then plugs them into a probability formula, then you generate numbers that are precisely as reliable as your initial numbers were. You cannot compute the probability that God, or god, or gods, or goddesses exist based on human characteristics.

This whole argument is specious. It is, nevertheless, entertaining, which was your intent, wasn’t it?

• Greg G.

Your argument pulls numbers out of your then plugs them into a probability formula

The argument he is lampooning was offered as a serious argument. It puts the “anal” in “analysis”.

• Lark62

The important point to remember, regardless of the probabilities assigned to any individual component – anything multiplied by 0 is 0.

• James B

What’s to compute? God is nonexistent !

• rationalobservations?

There are many millions of gods goddesses and god-men that are UNDETECTABLE and undetected. 30,000,000 said to inhabit the sacred cows of India alone.

Please always refer to nonexistent GODS. Always plural in spite of the delusions of christianity.

• I’m still waiting for One christian to explain how you get from “there might be a god” to the steaming pile of bullsh*t called chrisitnity. Eon Musk claims that the odds of this being anything other than a computer simulation are astronomical. And he actually has accomplishments unlike 2000 years of Jesus.

• rationalobservations?

There has been circa1600 years of christianity since that particular business was founded just before the first 4th century fabricated Roman bibles appear.
There is absolutely no historical trace of any Jesus or christianity from within the first century.

• C_Alan_Nault

Computing the Probability of Winning the Lottery.

I have a lottery ticket.

It is either the winning ticket for the big jackpot or it isn’t.

I have a 50% probability of winning the lottery.

• rationalobservations?

Just as there are many millions of lottery tickets – there are many millions of gods, goddesses and god-men.
The odds against you winning the lottery are the same as those against discovering a valid god, goddess or god-man – millions to one against.

• C_Alan_Nault

The solution is to keep buying a lottery ticket & before each draw pray to a different deity from the long list of deities people have named.

When you win the lottery, you will know which deity is the true god ( or goddess).

• rationalobservations?

The problem with your plan is that I don’t believe in the gods any more than you do. Including any individual god’s you may happen to have been indoctrinated with…

• C_Alan_Nault

But at least you’d have some personal evidence that suggests that the deity you were praying to may exist & may be the true god/goddess.Then you could design follow-up tests for that deity.

On the other hand,we have the god of the Bible. The Bible tells us that Jesus promises several times we will get anything we ask for in prayer (& we need only as much faith as a mustard seed)

Matthew 17:20
Matthew 18:19
Matthew 21:21
Mark 11:24
John 14:12-14
Matthew 18:19

For the Christians who deal with the issue of unanswered prayers with the comment “god answers all prayers but sometimes the answer is no”… that ain’t what the Bible/Jesus says.

That leaves only a few possibilities to choose from:

– the Bible is wrong & Jesus never said that
– the Bible is right and Jesus said that but he was wrong
– the Bible is right and Jesus said that but he was lying
– the person doing the praying had zero faith
– a god exists but the Bible is just a collection of fables and myths
– no god exists and the Bible is just a collection of fables and myths

• rationalobservations?

You appear to be unaware of the many diverse and different, confused and contradictory, historically inaccurate and scientifically absurd bibles there have been written by men since the oldest/first christian bibles were fabricated in the late 4th century. (Reference Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus)

All the evidence appears to confirm – no god(s) exist and the many diverse and different bible(s) is are just a collection of fables and myths.
If you know of any evidence that contradicts that – please present it?
As for prayers?
https://pics.me.me/people-who-think-that-their-iod-grants-them-special-favors-25976123.png

• Chuck Johnson

But if it turns out to be a losing lottery ticket, you can console yourself that this loss is all a part of God’s wonderful plan for you.
So it’s really a winning lottery ticket.

• C_Alan_Nault

“Computing the Probability of God”

Step one would be to clearly define this god.

So far ( in my experience) no one has been able to do so. Their definitions are either so vague as to be meaningless, or require claims that haven’t been proven ( ie: claiming god exists in a realm outside of time & space before first proving a realm outside of time & space exist), or use nonsensical terms that may sound profound but are actually meaningless ( ie: recently a theist described god as a “conscious energy force”).

• Ignorant Amos

Hence my Igtheism.

• “…recently a theist described god as a “conscious energy force”).”

Hey. My brain produces a conscious energy force. I must be a god.

• Greg G.

I must be a god.

Oh Heavenly Ian,

Amen

• Don’t worry. I suspect I’m not a very powerful god. But it is interesting, isn’t it, that the first thing that comes to mind when a god shows up is fear of being struck down by it. The Abrahamic god got to behave as badly as all the other gods, but somehow he convinced his followers that he loved them. Weird.

• Greg G.

I think the idea of gods came from bad things happening to humans, from thunderstorms to death, that they connected to things they had done. People retaliated if they hit them or didn’t share so they would begin to think these other bad things was somebody or somebodies they couldn’t see. It also explained wind and lightning.

• C_Alan_Nault

“My brain produces a conscious energy force. I must be a god.”

Naw, you would only be a god if you could produce a “conscious energy force” ( whatever that is) without needing your physical brain.

• Grimlock

Oh, but how do we know it’s a conscious energy force? Perhaps you are simply a p-zombie? (As I would insist all humans who do not accept Jesus would be, on the Christian view.)

• Chuck Johnson

There are as many definitions of god as there are theists.
This is the kind of situation that we would expect to see if God didn’t exist, but it was very important to prove that he does.

• Cozmo the Magician

recently a theist described god as a “conscious energy force”, proving that even theist can be Star Trek fans. (otoh, “why does god need a starship?”)

• C_Alan_Nault

LOL. But even in Star Trek ( or any other science fiction show) when someone uses the phrase “energy field” they are tossing out a meaningless phrase.

( I liked the Star Trek episode when Spock tells Kirk how strong (the energy of something) is says it’s”1 to the tenth power”.

Wow…..wait a minute, 1 to the tenth power is 1.

• Cozmo the Magician

I think your memory may be a bit faulty. Some google-fu reveals : When Kirk is about to give his demonstration on the bridge he states
that the ship’s computer has audio sensors that they can boost by “1 to
the 4th power”. 1 to any power is only 1 so there would be no boost at
all. He probably meant to say 10 to the 4th power, which is 10,000.
from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0708425/goofs

• Greg G.

“Ten thousand” is still easier to say than “ten to the fourth power”.

• Cozmo the Magician

Yeah but 10^4 sounds soooo much geeky sexier (; Personally if I asked a woman how much gold she payed for a piece of plate mail in Warcraft and she said ‘Ten to the fourth’ as apposed to ’10k’ or ‘Ten thousand’ I would be sooooo turned on (;

• Greg G.

But if a Klingon battle cruiser suddenly drops out of warp and is about to open fire, you don’t say increase shields to “ten to the fourth power” because you don’t want your weapons officer getting a calculator to work it out. You certainly don’t want to misspeak and say “one to the fourth power”.

• Cozmo the Magician

“you don’t want your weapons officer getting a calculator to work it out” Come one, this is a STARFLEET officer we are talking about, somebody who should know what I meant.. Oops Kirk proved me wrong. Then again, everybody knows he got his big chair by CHEATING, not thru merit (;

• Ignorant Amos

Behave yerself Coz, Kirk didn’t CHEAT, he used his INITIATIVE, what like us sappers have to do.

• Cozmo the Magician

Come on, in BOTH universes (TOS and the reboot movies) he himself called it cheating. And even in the PC game Starfleet Academy he says he cheats and offers the player the player the same method (which you actually need to use to progress the story…)

• Ignorant Amos

Cheating is giving oneself an unfair advantage. Kirk didn’t do that with the Kobayashi Maru Test, because the test was a cheat in itself as it was designed to be unbeatable.

I don’t remember Kirk admitting to “cheating” per se.

Kirk was subsequently awarded a commendation for “original thinking” and later commented, wistfully, that his stunt “had the virtue of never having been tried.” Kirk also went on to defend his “cheating” by arguing that he didn’t believe in the no-win scenario. Ironically, Kirk officially defended the test itself, suggesting a no-win scenario is one that Starfleet officer may someday face, however he would later state that he did not believe in a no-win scenario.

Kirk merely changed the program to make it a level playing field…and then passed the test.

When Saavik accuses Kirk of cheating, he replies “I changed the conditions of the test!”

In the reboot, the young Kirk is in curt defending himself from the charge of cheating, he never actually admitted to cheating and never gets convicted..afaicr anyway.

Depictions of the Kobayashi Maru test are a fairly popular subject in Star Trek literature. Non-canonical examples of Kobayashi Maru tests have been described in many Star Trek novels. Much like Kirk, characters are frequently depicted as coming up with innovative or surprising ways of handling the situation.

• Cozmo the Magician

OK, you win.

• Lark62

The solution to this equation provides a clue to the probability of god:

(a – x)(b – x)(c – x) ….. (z – x) = _____

• Grimlock

I see what you did there.

Good job.

This was from my HS algebra teacher ((cough cough)) years ago. Most people “can’t” solve it. It looks scary so they give up quickly. The only person I’ve see get it at first glance is 10 yrs old.

• Algebra was my least favorite subject at school, so I just looked it up on the ‘net. Yahoo Answers FTW.

• Grimlock

I guess it helps to have a few years of university level math.

• Brendan Jenkins

Hmmmm…I like it….(x-x)=0 Multiply the rest by 0 and the answer is 0…Makes perfect sense…THERE IS NO GOD..!!

• Ignorant Amos

Except there is no 0 or 1 probability in BT.

• rationalobservations?

Any computation of existence vs non-existence concerning gods, goddesses and god-men offered by christians is always binary. I.e., god or no god (singular).
This is rendered ridiculous by the fact that there are many millions of gods, goddesses and god-men (30,000,000 said to inhabit the sacred cows of India alone!).

Christians are often baffled how atheists could deny the existence of their (originally Canaanite) god, “Jehovah/Yahweh” and their (Roman) god-man/”messiah” “Yeshu/Jesus”, but they shouldn’t be. Christians deny many millions of the same gods that atheists deny and for the same reasons we deny theirs. Atheists just deny one more ridiculously unconvincing god and one more stereotypical and entirely mythical god-man (among many hundreds of thousands of extremely similar undetectable and imaginary gods, goddesses and god-men) than Christians.
Many among the rapidly declining cohort of the religionists join those christians who fail to justify their enthrallment to their specific brand of religion by pointing out that the non-existence of any of the gods cannot be proved.

If inability to prove the non-existence of deities (and in your case fictional bunnies and Santa) is enough for christians to believe in them.,they must be very busy worshiping Amun-Ra, Apollo/Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Pratibhanapratisamvit, (Buddhist goddess of context analysis) and Acat, (Mayan god of tattoo artists) and Tsa’qamae, (North American god of salmon migration) – and many thousands of other undetectable hypothetical entities among which the ridiculous “Yahweh” and “Jesus” remain merely mythical and of which no one ever provides proof or reason of (or for) existence and therefore non-existence may be sensibly and rationally assumed by default – as the third largest and fastest growing cohort of humanity (the godless / non-religious) conclude.
All the evidence appears to indicate that the “christian” religion was cobbled together in the 4th century from mainly “pagan” components and exclusively “pagan” feast days and festivals and the 4th century introduced pagan day of sun(god)day worship.

The burden of proof and the onus of convincing the rest of us of the validity of the “proof” is always upon the religionists and the rest of the rapidly declining membership of fraudulent religions. All religionists, fail too rise to meet that challenge and therefore your myths, legends and human businesses of religion remain debunked in the minds of most young folk and a large and growing number of us older folk who saw through and rejected the bunkum at some time in our life.

Meanwhile the computation concerning the possibility of existence of any specific god, goddess or god-man are resolved around odds of many millions to one against that existence.

• Kevin K

Not at all. You’re thinking of only it as the “Yahweh is the only solution to the god question” problem. But there are dozens, if not hundreds of gods who are not named Yahweh that are currently being worshiped as real, existent entities today and now. Heck, there are dozens of Hindu gods … and yes, the Hindi think those gods are every bit as real as the Jews’ Yahweh.

• rationalobservations?

You appear to have neglected to actually read my entry before arguing in apparent total agreement.
You are wrong in your assessment of the number of imaginary gods, goddesses and god-men. There are millions of them (30,000,000 said to inhabit the sacred cows of India alone).

Read my entry again and feel as foolish as you now appear.

• BeaverTales

If you substitute “P_before D” with “Santa Claus”, “Easter Bunny” “Sasquatch” or “the love child of Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhart”, you get the same answer as if you substitute “God”

• Ignorant Amos

I don’t think so…all of those are more probable than God…some a lot more than others, granted.

• Jim Jones

Let me grab my slide rule and figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

• Michael Neville

You’ve got a slide rule? You’re showing your age.

• koseighty
• If I remember correctly my class at West Point 1987 was the first class not to have to use a slide rule. We were actually ‘given’ a HP-15C calculator. That I still have and use to this day.

• MNb

Wow, the USA really are backward. I graduated from high school in 1981 and have hardly an idea how to use slide rules.

• It was not the US that was backwards just certain institutions and professions.

• Michael Neville

Could it be that Hudson High wasn’t keeping up with the times?

• Have not heard it called that in a long time. LOL

• Michael Neville

I was in the Navy. Our ring-knocking officers went to Canoe U.

• Ignorant Amos

1987?….sprog!

• Are you calling me a child?

• koseighty

42!

• Greg G.

Is that 42 factorial?

PS: BTW, that is the figure I arrived at with my abacus.

• Cozmo the Magician

“grab my slide rule” is that what u kids call it these days? We used other phrases back when i was a kid (;

• skl

Bob,

In the OP you link to, regarding the test that is 95%
accurate, you say that for those who are told they have the disease that “The
probability is 68% that you have the disease.”
This is true, but seems to give a misleading view on the
accuracy of the test. Although it’s not shown in the OP, I think it’s also true
that for those who are told they do not have the disease, the
probability is 99% that you do not have the disease.

Also, is the OP above – “Computing the Probability of God” –
saying that the probability is effectively zero?

• Herald Newman

This is true, but seems to give a misleading view on the accuracy of the test

It’s only misleading when one doesn’t understand what is being expressed by the 95% accuracy. This is why there’s a formal fallacy for this problem.

• In that prior post (“Using Bayes Theorem to Decide How Likely the Jesus Miracle Stories”), the set of people told by the test that they aren’t sick is: 855 who really aren’t sick and 5 who are. The likelihood that you’re sick if you’re given a negative test result is then 5/(5 + 855). Subtract that from 1, and the probability that you’re not sick is 99.42%.

• skl

“… the probability that you’re not sick is 99.42%.”

Yes, that’s what I thought, without the decimals. Just as you said “The
probability is 68% that you have the disease”, instead of 67.857%.
Again, I was just saying that noting the 68% without mentioning the 99%
could give someone the impression the test is a lot less accurate than it actually is.

I guess I’m asking what the probability of God is.

“I guess I’m asking what the probability of God is.”

Which God?

• jamesparson

I don’t like the formulation of the question. It is smuggling in the the idea of there only being one God. I invoke the “Zero one infinity rule”
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_one_infinity_rule

Basically the choices are no God, one God, or potentially infinite number of Gods.

I don’t know how to verify which of these is the mostly likely.

Hypothetically something somewhere that some might call a God could exist. How would I even know if there was only one of them?

• MR

So, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. My current hotel overlooks a small lake. This morning I was gazing out across the lake when a mysterious shadow formed in the middle of the lake as if something were surfacing. A slight bump appeared on the surface of the water, or maybe it was just a distortion of the shadow, I don’t know. A moment later, it slowly disappeared as if sinking, then it reappeared in the same spot and remained for a bit before disappearing entirely. I stood watching for a few minutes and never saw it again. Of course, I didn’t think to get a picture in the moment.

It was too large to be a fish or a turtle. The only large birds I’ve seen around here have been geese, but they tend to dive for a bit then pop back up a few moments later. They don’t hover under the surface, submerge and not resubmerge again for several minutes. I thought maybe there was a small hill or some object submerged just below the surface that appeared and disappeared with the movement of the waves, but there really wasn’t any substantial wave action, just the movement of the wind on the water. Besides, I stood there for quite a while and it never appeared again, so that made no sense. It could have been the reflection of a shadow of something in the sky, but that made no sense either because it appeared in one place. If it was something flying by it would have moved across the surface of the lake. No large, fresh-water mammals are in this area. I could think of no possible natural explanation for what I saw.

Now, I’m not smart enough to plug all these factors into Bob’s fancy-schmancy equation, but I am smart enough to know that if there is no known explanation for what I saw, the only reasonable explanation for what I saw is that I saw a lake monster. This is how lake monsters work. It is the only explanation that fits what I saw.

This is the kind of thinking I often hear when I hear religious people or conspiracy theory people speak.

• I was going to guess a Nessie sort of thing! Great minds think alike. But have you considered Martians? Perhaps they land in lakes and wait until it’s dark to come out.

• MR

No, doesn’t fit the usual pattern. Definitely lake monster.

• Greg G.

I don’t believe in lakes. They are just camouflage for monsters.

• Kodie

• Greg G.

Toddler monsters.

• Kodie

No such thing as lake monsters. At the bottom of some lakes, there is a hatch to Atlantis, so someone must have opened it, which caused a disturbance in the surface above that you saw. From the periscope, they saw you were watching, and emerged from the lake when it was clear.

• MR

See Kodie, you’re problem is that you so desperately don’t want to believe in lake monsters that you outright REJECT them in your world view. You are blind to the reality. Atlantis doesn’t explain what I saw. You weren’t there, so you can’t judge my personal experience. The only explanation, the one explanation THAT FITS THE EVIDENCE, and that fits the experiences and beliefs of MILLIONS of people all over the world, is that it was a lake monster. No one has ever heard of Altantis submarines rising up in the middle of freshwater lakes. That’s just crazy! See, you and Bob so DESPERATELY want to deny the existence of lake monsters, that you would rather invent wild tales of aliens or Atlantis to detract from the CLEAR REALITY that lake monsters exist. In your heart of hearts you KNOW they exist. Why do you resist them?

Why do you HATE lake monsters?

• Kodie

I don’t hate lake monsters, idiot, I don’t believe they exist because you don’t have evidence!

• MR

You just refuse to accept the evidence. People have been seeing lake monsters for thousands of years. Eyewitness accounts prove that lake monsters exist. Ancient depictions prove that lake monsters exist. It is evidence that you choose to ignore because of your hatred and animosity toward lake monsters. No evidence would be enough to convince you if you refuse to believe. If you would just try to believe in them, if you just let yourself believe in them, then they just might reveal themselves to you. Have you tried going to a lake and saying out loud, “Oh, lake monster, I believe in you, please reveal yourself.” If you can say that with all sincerity and believe in your heart, then you just might be surprised, Kodie. You have to humble yourself before the lake monsters.

• Kodie

Do you have any literature I can flush down the toilet after I slam the door in your face, kind sir?

• MR

Become a dedicated believer, Kodie.

Nessie loves you.

• Kodie

It’s actually a metaphor for a depressed working man on the verge of killing his whole family.

• TheNuszAbides

the tedious blog of an ancient tribe

now that’s a keeper.

The underlying problem with Unwin’s argument is that different people will weigh the factors differently. … the attempt to make the God question quantitative, interesting though it may be, seems hopeless.

I’m curious as to how Carrier addresses this in Proving History and/or Historical Jesus, assuming he must, but haven’t yet gotten around to reading either.

• Ignorant Amos

PH is about the problems with the existing method and how to approach the use of BT. In OTHOJ he defines all the elements of evidence for and against the minimal historical Jesus, giving them the best likelihood for the existence, and still comes out a low probability.

Carrier takes on Unwins nonsense at https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12814

And describes BT’s application to the subject at….

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12742

https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11868

• TheNuszAbides

the Math Pro’s cry of ‘false’ that MNb linked seems about as [trivially] important as the objection that BT is “only a formalization”. the devil (or lack thereof) is, must be, in the details.

but I’m no expert.