An acquaintance and myself have been arguing about the existence of universals. His argument is that a universal, such as the number two, is an abstract concept, but must be accounted for somehow. He asks where the number two is. (I consider that a nonsense question.) He believes this number two must exist in some nonmaterial realm. If the number two exists, he says, as it does in mathematics, then it must be somewhere. From this he concludes that philosophical naturalism/materialism is incorrect, thus opening up the possibility of the existence of a supreme being.

I have made many posts explaining why I disagree with his ideas, but he refuses to budge on this matter. I cannot reproduce the posts here because it came from a private forum.

Now on to the question of gods. He argues that it is nonsensical to ask for scientific evidence of a god because science deals with the material realm, and he believes the god is non-material (whatever the hell that means). Because science deals with the material realm, it is illogical to search for evidence for or against the existence of a supreme being; rather, that question must be determined by philosophical proofs in much the same way we have mathematical proofs.

What are your thoughts on the problem of universals? Is it nonsensical to look for scientific evidence of a non-material god? Can philosophical proofs "prove" a god's existence?

James

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Take care here. Polymath's arguments make some very good points about mathematics. But, contrary to what he wants to claim, his argument demonstrated that ultamately the questions are philosophical, not scientific. Science cannot prove the existence of anything, including his chair, any more than philosophy. Science can only describe the chair as an item of human experience and even then only quantitatively. If there is anything about the experience that is not quantifiable (and I don't know whether there is), science doesn't have anything to say about it.

Mathematics is a formal system which is absolute and universal BY HUMAN DESIGN. So long as the argument is within the formalisms of the science, the conclusions can be said to be "true" but they cannot be said to be TRUE. The question of truth vs. TRUTH is philosophical and Polymath points this out with the statement "The question of whether those axioms actually hold is a non-trivial aspect of the question and cannot be determined except through testing."

The scientific method supposes that "empirical evidence" can tell us about the actual world. While that supposition has worked pretty well for us, in some regards, the reasons for it are philosophical. The reasons for doing science at all are philosophical. I happen agree with Polymath that Plato made a mistake. But some of the best reasons for thinking so are to be found in Aristotle's rejection of Plato's theory and that's philosophy.
Good points, but what is your definition of TRUTH? At least in the empirical sciences, there is a possibility of defining the concept: anything that all minimal assumptioned, predictive theories agree upon.
I have no definition of TRUTH -- if there were such a definition it would be THE DEFINITION, not mine or anyone elses. I draw a distinction between TRUTH and truth (its just a language device) in order to point out a fundamental difference between science and religion. They are not really talking about the same thing and the religious person referred to in the original post was quite right to claim that science can't prove the existence of god. However, he is quite wrong in thinking that mathematics somehow can, as though math(s) are somehow better than or in some way not science. To make this move he has to prove that the number 2 "exists somewhere" which he doesn't, and probably cannot, do. But it is a slick move that takes advantage of some tendencies in many abstract thinkers and others who may not have given any thought or study to the nature of mathematics.

The trick is to lay the claim that number or mathematics in not a product of human experience and reason but rather "exists somewhere" independent of human experience or reason. If this claim is slipped in without challenge, the argument is moved out of the domain of science but is based on a basic tool of science; math and/or logic. The argument has shifted to a world of immaterial, absolute, universal, metaphysical stuff that science, by convention, does not get into.

In this immaterial world math and logic can be used to "prove" anything one can imagine but such proofs are only functionally true with respect to the assumptions and terms of the argument, i.e. valid. Whether valid arguments are TRUE is an entirely different issue. Science restricts itself to those arguments for which the determination of truth requires "taking a look" or otherwise experiencing the thing that the argument is about and only then in a way that can be duplicated by others and in conformity with rules, formalisms and conventions. Furthermore, because science requires experience and because human experience with respect to the entire universe is just about nothing, the truth of science is only provisional pending further investigation and development. It doesn't even attempt to find TRUTH. It does, however, demonstrate that at least within its scope of investigation, the concept of god is not necessary to describe and explain anything. Philosophically, this provides part of the evidence against the existence of god.
In any discussion about whether or not God exists, the first thing you have to do is distinguish between the words belief and faith.
For example, I’ve never been to Dallas, but I know people who have. I have “googled” Dallas, Dallas is in my encyclopedia, I can phone people who are currently in Dallas and I can be assured of the reality of its existence. I do not have to exercise faith when it comes to accepting the reality, or the existence of Dallas. It would be an inappropriate use of the word faith to describe my belief in the existence of Dallas.
Simply put, I don’t have faith in the existence of Dallas, rather, I believe Dallas exists.
It is easy, at that point, to name an endless list of things that do not elicit an act of faith. Things we believe exist as distinguished from those things we have to engage faith in order to accept their existence.
It is important, at that point, to control the conversation by making sure that the words faith and belief are used appropriately.
You can’t allow a person of faith to get by with simply saying “I believe in God”. You must correct them by insisting that they admit to their faith. Otherwise, they are saying they believe in God’s existence in the same manner in which they believe in the existence of that bottle of beer or that pack of Marlboro cigarettes. You can point out that if they believe in god (i.e. have physical evidence), then they have eliminated the need for, or the embracing of faith.
In all religions, faith is the corner stone. Countless scriptural passages emphasize that faith is the way to salvation, that unless you have it (faith) you fail all religious litmus tests.
So, God, is an object of faith, not an object of belief.

If you can’t get your friend to discipline his use of this simple distinction, then you might as well walk away from the discussion.
You can, maybe, bring him around by admitting that there is no compelling evidence that God does not exist. As long as the difference between faith and belief is accepted.
So, when you ask:
"Is it nonsensical to look for scientific evidence of a nonmaterial god?” the answer is :” of course, because seeking evidence for the existence of God is an admission of a lack of faith.”

Faith is an all or nothing proposition. You’ve got it or you don’t. It is my opinion that those who try to prove that god exists are motivated by the deep insecurity of their own lack of faith. (i.e. it is my experience that most people lack the blind faith necessary when it comes to some sort of God, and are, therefore, down deep inside, actually atheists)

So, your friend is right in this regard when you write:
***“Now on to the question of gods. He argues that it is nonsensical to ask for scientific evidence of a god because science deals with the material realm, and he believes the god is nonmaterial (whatever the hell that means).”***
Yes, god is an object of faith, and to argue about the physical (material) existence of an object of faith results in nonsense.

There are lots of things to believe in.
There is nothing to have faith in.
The number 2 is not a nonmaterial thing. It is a symbol used by humans for counting. Man have assigend different symbols to it at different times in different areas. man have assigned common names and symbols to many material things and functions relating these material things for ease in comunication. To create gods out of it is infact ridiculus.

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