Thursday, June 01, 2006

Challenge to atheists: prove God exists

Okay, this is essentially a reprint of the post below, but that one doesn't show up on Technorati right, and someone (Wade, whose new atheist blog is here, so give him some traffic) commented that the challenge was actually worded a little vaguely. To review, I have had many atheists/skeptics claim that if God really wants us to believe in Him, He ought to give "undeniable" proof of His existence. My contention is that there is no such thing as "undeniable proof". My challenge to skeptics who wish to make such an accusation is to come up with a hypothetical example of what such proof would look like. Remember, this is not just proof that you personally find acceptable (there are already about a couple billion people who seem to have that), but proof that nobody could deny. Either of the following would be permissable:

1: Give a hypothetical undeniable proof for the existence of an intelligent being that created the universe with a purpose in mind.

2: Give a hypothetical undeniable proof of the existence of the God of the Bible. Complete adherence to all facts presented in the Bible is not necessary, but the following aspects must be shown: omniscience, "quasiomnipotence" (that is, absolute power over matter, space and time, but not neccesarily over logical foundations of truth), absolute benevolence, and is the inspiration for (if not the actual author of) the Bible. Actually, it need not be the Bible, one could substitue the Quran or some other Holy Book of a major religion that has a fairly well-defined concept of the deity(s) within it.

I once asked an atheist, "If God pushed the sky aside as though it were a curtain, stuck His head down throught the gap and waved, saying, 'Hi, I'm up here!' would you be convinced that God exists?" He pondered and replied, "No, I'd probably think it was an hallucination." I actually admired him for his honesty.


The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

How about cutting the Gordian knot and going for "God could alter your neurons so that you do, in fact, believe in his existence."

Then you're just left with a certain philosophical conundrum of belief: namely, if X is true, and you believe X, but for a bad reason (e.g. someone has tinkered with your brain), is it true to say that you are correct in your belief that X?

(I didn't make that up; Eudoxus was tormenting me with that one at dinner a few nights ago.)

Brucker said...

On the suggested method, although I didn't specify it, I was really thinking something that God can do as a single act, rather than on an individual basis.

But there is a good point there, I don't think I'm looking for something that a person believes for a wrong reason, but something that all people would believe for perfectly valid reasons. If God exists, and He made everyone believe in Him by altering their brains, then that belief may be technically true, but it has no solid basis. Why? Because we can imagine the opposite: that God alters everyone's brain to be an atheist. Then everyone would believe something that was not true.

Besides, you're not an atheist, so who asked you? : P

bookjunky said...

Reversing the earth's rotation without causing harm to the life on the planet would be another. According to my understanding, this would be physically impossible to occur naturally (see If this information is correct, then I think this event would be a pretty strong candidate for supernatural intervention. Particularly if God spoke to everyone simultaneously and audibly and told them what he was doing and why.

Jono said...

If a group of stars were instantaneously rearranged so that, when viewed from Earth, they spelled a message in plain English -- such as "There is a God!" or, say, "Zoroastrianism is the true religion!", that would certainly convince me and, I think, everyone else. Of course, it would be even better if it were in multiple languages, not just English. There are plenty of stars out there. Teleporting stars violates every law of physics we know of; it seems beyond the ability of even a very powerful extraterrestrial civilization; the fact that the message is visible from Earth sginals an intention to convey that Earth is a priveliged and important place in the cosmos; and the stars would remain in this configuration, so that anyone who looked at the night sky could read the message plainly could verify the event for themselves, ruling out the possibility that it was a hoax or a hallucination. If any God exists, this would certainly be within its powers, right?

Or, a message could be encoded mathematically in a constant of nature, which would surely indicate that the constants of nature had been chosen by an intelligent entity, therefore that the universe had been designed by an entity which wanted us to find the message when we reached a certain level of sophistication. Again, it would be something that anybody could independently verify for themselves, and as it would be part of the structure of the universe itself, it could not possibly be hoaxed.

I am a skeptic. I base my beliefs on evidence and logic. Present me sufficient evidence and a logical argument and I will change my beliefs. If there is a god, and this god is omniscient, he knows of my skeptical nature, and he knows exactly what actions it will take to convince me. If this god is omnipotent, he will be able to perform those actions. If this god is omniscient, omnipotent, and cares that I believe in him, he will give me sufficient evidence to convince me of his existence. Since I have not seen any such evidence, I conclude that either god is not omniscient, not omnipotent, or does not care whether I believe in him or not, or he is nonexistent.

I can think of one more way for God to send an unambiguous message. He could select a human and give him the text of a book with instructions to pass it on to future generations, and include within this book unambiguous information that only the creator of the universe would know, along with valuable advice. He could then use his miraculous god-powers to ensure that the information was not lost due to mistranslation or miscopying of the book. The information would have to be something unambiguous which people could verify as true independently, but which ancient humans would have had no way of knowing: for instance, a complete explanation of quantum gravity, with all constants specified and all equations solved in closed form, along with a guide of how to interpret the formulae. "You do not now understand what this means", God would say to the primitive human, "But write it down and future generations will find it useful and be able to use it to verify that I exist." Vague, poetic references which can be interpreted to be roughly qualitatively congruent with some ideas of modern science (such as the ones Muslims like to point out in the Koran) are not sufficient, because they could just have easily have been made up by any primitive human. Furthermore, God would have provided the same book to humans all over the world, each in their own language; for why should he favor one tribe over another? Assuming that God is benevolent and wants to help humans, the rest of God's book would be full of good stuff: it would be contradiction-free, historically accurate, and morally perfect. It would contain technological instructions of use to a developing civilization. It would not advocate genocide or killing of unbelievers; it would promote sexual equality, civil liberties, and peaceful interaction with other tribes; and it would forbid rape and slavery, among other crimes.

Since no ancient religious text fits these criteria, I conclude that none of them were written by God.

Brucker said...

Check backlinks below for responses and commentary.

Brucker said...

Hmm, backlinks don't seem to be working the way I wanted them to... Try these:

Rising to the challenge, part I: My goose cooked?
Rising to the Challenge, part II: A freakin' miracle!
Rising to the Challenge, part III: Dog on, "Well, it's DNA!" and still, "Ew, no God."