Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism
I really don't have time to respond to three or four posts every time, so I'm going to try to sum up my points here in the hopes of getting a little more concise in this debate.
Your position is positivist-agnostic; that is, you don't deny the possibility that anything could exist, because that would be an unprovable assumption. Yet unless you can quantify something according to the assumed tenants of positivism, you do not affirm that it does exist. The problem as I see it, Nic, is that you're drawing very black and white conclusions. Either God is something that's completely fabricated, imaginary, and superstitious, or God is a naturalistic scientific hypothesis that is subject to the identical process of deduction to which all natural claims must be subjected. The reality of it, though, lies somewhere in between.
Certainly, it would be misguided to assume that God's existence is a "fact". Aside from a vocal minority of devout fundamentalists, there aren't too many people who try to assert God's existence as factual. Instead, God's existence is and has always been a metaphysical and epistemological question.
So the real question is not whether we can find some sort of observable, measurable proof of God's existence. We must ask instead whether we can find logical reasons to believe that a supernatural intelligence might exist. In this respect, theology is indeed quite similar to theoretical cosmology. Nobody has ever seen dark matter; it is presumed to exist because celestial bodies have been observed to generate far more gravitational forces than their visible mass would allow. Dark matter remains purely theoretical, and indeed there are a number of other theories which propose to more fully explain the nature of gravitational forces in deep space.
The question of logic, then, is one of inference. If something cannot be proven to exist, then it is inferred to exist in a theoretical capacity. You won't see any physicists claiming that dark matter's existence is an indisputable fact, any more than you'll see people of faith saying that God's existence is a fact. However, God can be logically inferred to theoretically exist based on observable evidence of both the inherent design, homogeneity and indeed the mere existence of the universe. This is because we have no means to understand how the universe could have "created itself", or how an ordered system could spontaneously come into existence. Our understanding of the universe is a mere reflection of our own consciousness; thus we believe that just as we can not exist without an origin, the universe itself could not exist without an origin. However, this origin cannot logically be exclusively contained within the universe (since the universe did not always exist), but must be transcendent of it -- not "outside" or "inside", but unbound yet intrinsically one with it. Such a concept is remarkably consistent with the notion of a creator God that has permeated virtually every culture in the history of humanity. So indeed advances in physics have lead many to find greater strength in their faith in God.
Saying "God created the universe" is not a statement of fact, and thusly should not be interpreted to mean that we should stop investigating the origins of the universe within the realm of theoretical cosmology and natural science. It is entirely possible that there is no God, and the origin of the universe can be explained within the bounds of naturalism. However, epistemology tells us that there are inherent limits on what we can objectively (humanistically) claim to know (and even this knowledge rests upon a host of assumptions), and that many of the greatest questions about our existence will in all likelihood always be confined to metaphysics. It's worth noting that some of the world's top physicists, such as Davies and Lee Smolin, feel that as we reach a greater understanding of cosmology, we also reach a greater understanding of our inability to know, quantitatively, many fundamental questions about our existence.
Thus faith will remain as it always has -- an epistemological and metaphysical question that assumes nothing, but allows humans to reconcile their intuitively perceived sense of design and purpose with the inherent unknownable qualities of the universe itself. If God didn't do it, we're going to have a hell of a time finding out what did.
Addendum: I also wanted to comment briefly about the diversity of religion. What we're dealing with here in this thread is the fundamental question of whether a higher power or divine intelligence exists. Whether it's a he, she, it, they, a personal god, a deistic god, etc., is another topic. How we choose to personify and relate to God is largely regulated by our cultural and personal experiences.
Last edited by Mike Doolittle; 04-13-2007 at 05:49 PM.