God: The Failed Hypothesis, by Victor Stenger

Thandarr
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God: The Failed Hypothesis, by Victor Stenger

I just finished reading this book. I found it quite informative. In particular, I was interested in how the author dismantled the "anthropic principle" argument.

Of course, he admitted he couldn't disprove the existence of all gods, just the ones alleged to have certain characteristics such as the three "O's" (Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence) or those who actively intervene in the world. As to those gods, he posited phenomena that we would reasonably expect if those hypothesized gods existed. He then proceeded to show how the predicted phenomena do not occur. Therefore, he concludes, through a scientific process of theorizing and checking theories by evidence, we can rule out gods defined by certain characteristics.

Stenger has a website with a powerpoint presentation summarizing his book. http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Godless/Fail.ppt

It was an interesting book. I would be interested in your thoughts.

Thandarr

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cslewisster
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It always bugs me when a

It always bugs me when a physicist, biologist or even neuroscientist decide that they can become Philosophers. I'm not saying I'm discounting what they say, I'm just saying that it feels like a physicist that does this is just as culpable as a young earth creationist sitting in his pew telling a Biologist that he's wrong. Of course he has a passing knowledge of the subject, but enough to write a conclusive book and make an impact inside the subject's field, I'd say that is a rarity.

There are many arguments for and against the existence of God, but most all are philosophic in nature and all of them are inconclusive. I'd love to hear some of his arguments because to have finally put together a philosophically complete argument to disprove the existence of a classic God is something that even all philosophers haven't been able to do throughout the ages.

I'd say that the chances are though, that contains the same old arguments rehashed again God and the incompatibility of evil...etc. Am I right?

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It's not primarily philosophy

He's an adjunct professor of philosophy, for what it's worth. 

The philosophical arguments are covered, but they are intentionally limited to bare bones discussion.  In fact, he frequently just lists the steps and goes on without any discussion.  The focus is more on scientific evaluation of observable phenomena.  His methodology is:

  1. Hypothesize a god who has specific attributes that should provide objective evidence for his existence.
  2. Identify what objective findings would be expected if the hypothesized god existed.
  3. If objective evidence is found, conclude that this god is viable.
  4. If such objective evidence is not found, conclude that a god with the hypothesized attributes does not exist.

For instance, hypothesize a god who hears and answers prayers.  If god answers prayers, beneficiaries of prayers should do better than those who are not beneficiaries of such prayers.  He discusses recent studies showing no statistically significant impact of prayer for heart patients.

If you hypothesize a god who speaks to people and tells them about the future, you would expect that some of those prophesies would turn out to be true.  He discusses the lack of any significant prophesies being fulfilled.  

But he's at his best when he addresses questins of physics.  He debunks the idea that the universe is miraculously fine tuned for life using arguments from physics, not philosophy.  He argues that the universe is exactly what one would expect from  an undesigned universe.

Thandarr 


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cslewisster wrote: It

cslewisster wrote:

It always bugs me when a physicist, biologist or even neuroscientist decide that they can become Philosophers. I'm not saying I'm discounting what they say, I'm just saying that it feels like a physicist that does this is just as culpable as a young earth creationist sitting in his pew telling a Biologist that he's wrong. Of course he has a passing knowledge of the subject, but enough to write a conclusive book and make an impact inside the subject's field, I'd say that is a rarity.

So one must be a professional philosopher to say anything about religion?

Also, I hope you aren't referring to Creationism as a "field".

cslewisster wrote:

There are many arguments for and against the existence of God, but most all are philosophic in nature and all of them are inconclusive. I'd love to hear some of his arguments because to have finally put together a philosophically complete argument to disprove the existence of a classic God is something that even all philosophers haven't been able to do throughout the ages.

I have yet to see a proof that unicorns don't exist.

One can distinctly disprove someone else's claims about god.

The only reason philosophers "haven't been able to do" this, is because churches traditionally respond to such ideas with willful ignorance and violence.

cslewisster wrote:


I'd say that the chances are though, that contains the same old arguments rehashed again God and the incompatibility of evil...etc. Am I right?

I'd say chances are that you haven't read the book and you'll never bother reading it. (I'd love to be proven wrong, though.)

-Triften


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Thandarr wrote: He's an

Thandarr wrote:

He's an adjunct professor of philosophy, for what it's worth.

That does help actually, though I'm still a little disturbed by the trend of other pseudo-philosophers. 

Thandarr wrote:
 

  1. Hypothesize a god who has specific attributes that should provide objective evidence for his existence.
  2. Identify what objective findings would be expected if the hypothesized god existed.
  3. If objective evidence is found, conclude that this god is viable.
  4. If such objective evidence is not found, conclude that a god with the hypothesized attributes does not exist.
What makes him think that we can apply criteria that we use on material interactions of the universe to be applied to a non-material being? Even at the base of his argument what brings about this idea that anything can be measured and known? 

Thandarr wrote:

For instance, hypothesize a god who hears and answers prayers. If god answers prayers, beneficiaries of prayers should do better than those who are not beneficiaries of such prayers. He discusses recent studies showing no statistically significant impact of prayer for heart patients.

 

 I still think that that study is inconclusive at best because it seems to have used rather arbitrary criterion. I've actually though about doing a study myself later in life after I get my Ph. D. I'd like to compile a comprehensive look at miracles, prayers...etc and publish the findings. 

Thandarr wrote:
If you hypothesize a god who speaks to people and tells them about the future, you would expect that some of those prophesies would turn out to be true. He discusses the lack of any significant prophesies being fulfilled.

If you discount the Prophecies in the OT (Psalm 22 comes to mind) and I'd also like to see what kind of criterion that he uses to decide whether a prophecy did or did not happen or how conclusive any study in the matter can be conducted. 

Thandarr wrote:
But he's at his best when he addresses questins of physics. He debunks the idea that the universe is miraculously fine tuned for life using arguments from physics, not philosophy. He argues that the universe is exactly what one would expect from an undesigned universe.

I can't touch physics but why does, he conclude that the universe was not made for life, even though it did produce life? 

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triften wrote: So one

triften wrote:

So one must be a professional philosopher to say anything about religion?

Also, I hope you aren't referring to Creationism as a "field".

I'd say that though you may not have to be professional to make an impact in a subject, it doesn't hurt (Wittgenstein was a engineering major). But I really feel like some of these writers that publish books on God just don't know enough about the subject to be writing, so it worries me when I see an author writing in a subject that isn't his forte.

I used the creationist example only to point out that there are plenty of writers on the subject that would be considered inadequate by the others standards, like wise a biologist who crosses over to philosophy.

triften wrote:

I have yet to see a proof that unicorns don't exist.

One can distinctly disprove someone else's claims about god.

The only reason philosophers "haven't been able to do" this, is because churches traditionally respond to such ideas with willful ignorance and violence.

Where to begin?

Your observations about the knowablility of things through claim of existence is a valid worry. Though to when putting God into this box of knowablility you have to put other things (like say other people) into this box of unknowablility. I'd suggest reading up on reformed epistemology before using the unicorn argument. Kelly James Clark has a good paper on this subject. 

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.calvin.edu%2Facademic%2Fphilosophy%2Fvirtual_library%2Farticles%2Fclark_kelly_j%2Fwithout_evidence_or_argument.pdf&ei=eeauRbnNMZXywQLhjvGNDg&usg=__WwsLQWc4gonBNUuI_eBxgb_htp0=&sig2=Tj_dOrlErJyNsS6Lfrr1xA

 

As far as churches using violence so as to continue belief in God, this seems utterly absurd to me. Though some Christians and theist may use violent rhetoric to defend their positions I hardly see anyone in the street rioting to keep religion from the hands of the atheistic members of society.

triften wrote:
I'd say chances are that you haven't read the book and you'll never bother reading it. (I'd love to be proven wrong, though.)

-Triften

I haven't read it, though it seems like it would be an interesting read. If you'd like to send me a copy I'd love to read it.

 

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cslewisster wrote: triften

cslewisster wrote:
triften wrote:

So one must be a professional philosopher to say anything about religion?

Also, I hope you aren't referring to Creationism as a "field".

I'd say that though you may not have to be professional to make an impact in a subject, it doesn't hurt (Wittgenstein was a engineering major). But I really feel like some of these writers that publish books on God just don't know enough about the subject to be writing, so it worries me when I see an author writing in a subject that isn't his forte.

I used the creationist example only to point out that there are plenty of writers on the subject that would be considered inadequate by the others standards, like wise a biologist who crosses over to philosophy.

Fair enough.

cslewisster wrote:

triften wrote:

I have yet to see a proof that unicorns don't exist.

One can distinctly disprove someone else's claims about god.

The only reason philosophers "haven't been able to do" this, is because churches traditionally respond to such ideas with willful ignorance and violence.

Where to begin?

Your observations about the knowablility of things through claim of existence is a valid worry. Though to when putting God into this box of knowablility you have to put other things (like say other people) into this box of unknowablility. I'd suggest reading up on reformed epistemology before using the unicorn argument. Kelly James Clark has a good paper on this subject.

The grammar of the sentence about boxes on knowability and unknowability confuses me due to the use of "this" twice. Are you referring to a single box or two?

So are you arguing that the existence of God is to be taken as a presupposed truth that requires no proof?

cslewisster wrote:

As far as churches using violence so as to continue belief in God, this seems utterly absurd to me. Though some Christians and theist may use violent rhetoric to defend their positions I hardly see anyone in the street rioting to keep religion from the hands of the atheistic members of society.

Luke 19:27

 

Are you ignoring the burning of "witches" and the Inquisition? The excommunication of Galileo?

Violence doesn't need to occur for it to be used. The threat of violence is sufficient in most cases. Ask Sapient about the death threats he's received.

 

cslewisster wrote:

triften wrote:
I'd say chances are that you haven't read the book and you'll never bother reading it. (I'd love to be proven wrong, though.)

I haven't read it, though it seems like it would be an interesting read. If you'd like to send me a copy I'd love to read it.

I'd recommend your local library. Or just standing in Borders and reading it.

If I decide to purchase a copy, I'll pass it along to you.

 

-Triften 


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triften wrote: The grammar

triften wrote:

The grammar of the sentence about boxes on knowability and unknowability confuses me due to the use of "this" twice. Are you referring to a single box or two?

So are you arguing that the existence of God is to be taken as a presupposed truth that requires no proof?

 I was referring to the same box. So when you say there is a certain way to know whether or not God exists, you have to apply the same criteria to other things like knowability of other people. Plantinga made the assertion that knowing other minds exist and knowing that God exists is in the same epistemological boat so to say that one is rational is to say that the other is. This can be like solipsism but I don't really know if I think that is a bad thing. 

triften wrote:

Luke 19:27

 

Are you ignoring the burning of "witches" and the Inquisition? The excommunication of Galileo?

Violence doesn't need to occur for it to be used. The threat of violence is sufficient in most cases. Ask Sapient about the death threats he's received.

The verse you quoted is way out of context, it's a parable (I'm kind of sick of hearing this verse quoted by Atheists honestly, its just about as annoying as hearing someone say "Evolution is just a theory." Both statements seem to me to be made in ignorance, no offense.) 

 As far as violence I know that Christians can be violent when their beliefs are questioned, but so are non-Christians it's just the disposition of certain people and people will use government religion or almost anything else to justify their violence. 

triften wrote:

I'd recommend your local library. Or just standing in Borders and reading it.

If I decide to purchase a copy, I'll pass it along to you.

 

-Triften

Crap, I'm always looking for free books. If you want to pass your copy of The God Delusion off to me I'd like that too Smiling

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I just stumbled across that

I just stumbled across that in the book store today, along with "Breaking the Spell" by Daniel C. Dennett. It's another Atheist book.


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cslewisster wrote: I was

cslewisster wrote:

I was referring to the same box. So when you say there is a certain way to know whether or not God exists, you have to apply the same criteria to other things like knowability of other people. Plantinga made the assertion that knowing other minds exist and knowing that God exists is in the same epistemological boat so to say that one is rational is to say that the other is. This can be like solipsism but I don't really know if I think that is a bad thing.

I'm not trying to say that god definitely doesn't exist. I can't. However, we can discuss particular claims made by people regarding god.

I find the Reformed Epistemological argument degenerate in that it can remove any stance from discussion (which is the goal, being a philosphical argument for faith). Regardless, we still can gather plenty of evidence for the existence of thinking minds in the bodies of those we interact with. It's kind of a "brain-in-a-jar" question. ("What if we're brains in jars being fed stimuli to make it seem like we're in what we see as reality?" "Well, if the illusion is so good we can't tell and we'll never find out, it doesn't matter." )

cslewisster wrote:

triften wrote:

Luke 19:27

Are you ignoring the burning of "witches" and the Inquisition? The excommunication of Galileo?

Violence doesn't need to occur for it to be used. The threat of violence is sufficient in most cases. Ask Sapient about the death threats he's received.

The verse you quoted is way out of context, it's a parable (I'm kind of sick of hearing this verse quoted by Atheists honestly, its just about as annoying as hearing someone say "Evolution is just a theory." Both statements seem to me to be made in ignorance, no offense.)

It seems that the king in the parable represents god, so the context is pretty clear.

If I'm missing something, please enlighten me.

cslewisster wrote:

As far as violence I know that Christians can be violent when their beliefs are questioned, but so are non-Christians it's just the disposition of certain people and people will use government religion or almost anything else to justify their violence.

Who are you referring to when you say "non-Christians"? Muslims? The Qu'ran has many great bits of advice on what to do with apostates. (As does the OT for that matter.)

The underlying thread in many of these acts of violence, is ideology, religious or otherwise. It destroys the possibility of discussion and leave only the path of violence. Ever listen to a discussion between a Christian and a Muslim? "The Bible says..." "The Qu'ran says..." and back and forth it goes. Wow. Such progress.

cslewisster wrote:

triften wrote:

I'd recommend your local library. Or just standing in Borders and reading it.

If I decide to purchase a copy, I'll pass it along to you.

Crap, I'm always looking for free books. If you want to pass your copy of The God Delusion off to me I'd like that too Smiling

That is still sitting at my mom's house with my copy of Little Miss Sunshine.

Not that I'm bitter or anything. Eye-wink

-Triften