Can we be absolutely certain that gravity will be in effect tomorrow morning? I'm 99.999% sure it will. But what if there is some unknown law of physics that will coincidently make gravity cease to affect us between now and then?
then we would be wrong. : )
For practical applications, I don't subscribe to absolute certainty. It is, in and of itself, a logical contradiction~ but for less practical applications, I will use it. After thinking about it in depth, I would say that, on a personal level, I am absolutely certain that a Personal God doesn't exist. If I were in a debate, I would not hold that position as a matter of strategy; but outside of that, due to the lack of any corresponding evidence, the inherent contradictions, and the nature of the "god" in question (that it would care if I believe or not, thus giving it reason to inform me of its existence) I am absolutely certain that it does not exist. I have no need for the one one-thousandth of a percent to be proscribed to the notion~ if I do find one day that the god does exist, I'll merely admit defeat and move on. Aside from that, I am 100% certain of that particular god's nonexistence.
[btw I would like to add, after rereading the original post, I do see evidence against God. Considering its definition, and the statements made about its intent, the failure of it to adequately operate in a way that would be conducive to achieving its intentions, creates a situation in which it inherently defies its stated definition. That, to me, is evidence against its existence.] [edited for content and grammar]
I say 99.9999% because its the closest you can get to 100% certainty, as I pretty much feel 100% certain, but I know that knowledgewise its impossible, and wouldn't hold such a position when discussing a matter. So I think we're in agreement here.
Certainty isn't the knowledge of actual events, its prospective perception and judgement. Whether I am certain I will win the lottery has no bearing on whether I will or not. Regardless of whether something else can happen or not, certainty is merely a statement of opinion or belief.
absolute certainty doesn't exist because there is always the possibility that there is something we don't know--perhaps even some plane of existence that is more "real" than our own.
Thats not the point.
Good question Scott.
I'm precisely as sure that there is no God, and for precisely the same reason, that I am sure that if I release a heavy object at the earth's surface it will fall. The proposal of there being a 'God' (in the sense implied by any of our traditional theisms) is ruled out by our on-demand-repeatable physical observations to precisely the maximum extent that it can possibly be ruled out. The proposal is contraindicated, and can't be selected through any test that we can coherently understand to be capable of selecting knowledge.
For more on this I've pasted here something that you may find of interest:
Crystal Blue Persuasion
The following is a simple three step guide for constructive engagement with any proselytizing theist. It is, in effect, synopsis and clarification of an 'app' from my main essay 'Truth?'. My hope is that by directing interested parties first to this short and explicitly practical essay some may then become engaged enough to try the longer and more challenging one.
1. Inform the theist that he is offering proposals that you do not believe him to be able to qualify, through any coherent procedure for knowledge selection, as knowledge. Offer to open the debate with him at that level. Specifically, to work with him to arrive first at a procedure that you will both be able to understand to be functional. Offer further that if this step can be completed then you will invite him to clearly state his theistic proposals for your mutual application of the procedure to them, and that if they then can be seen to qualify through it you will publically embrace them, on the spot. Explain politely that you do not wish to waste his time or yours on a further replay of the sterile debate that has been going on between our two sides for thousands of years. Simply, that if he is willing to match your level of commitment, in engaging within a format that you can both understand to be capable of clear and final settlement of our argument, then you are keen to talk to him. But that if he will only engage in the absence of any such format – to hold open his option for declaring a draw, through play of the 'faith' card or some related piece of hokum like 'warrant' or 'non-doxastic justification' as soon as he can see his position becoming rationally untenable – then you have other and more productive uses for your time. He can accept, or he can decline. If he chooses the latter, then it will be with pretty clear implications for both himself and those to whom he had been trying to propagate his theism.
2. [He has accepted, and you’ve mutually agreed on a functional procedure]. Invite him to state his theism's defining proposals. Specifically, those which distinguish it from the all of the others, and from science (unless, of course, he would just as soon have you embrace any of those). Write his proposals down. Get him to sign the sheet. Because once you start applying a functional knowledge selection procedure to them – and they start to melt like sandcastles in the rising tide – he will expect to be able use the standard theist's dodge of linguistically obfuscating and morphing them to avoid your selection procedure’s gates. As in: “Well, I didn’t literally mean……..” and “Of course '……..' should be understood only in a metaphorical sense”, and the rest of that ancient bag of tricks.
3. [You now have the functional procedure and the signed list]. Patiently and systematically apply the procedure to each one of his proposals. Show him how it clearly fails to qualify. Show him that any relaxation of the procedure’s tests that is sufficient to allow his proposals to qualify will also and simultaneously permit qualification of an effectively infinite number of other and logically exclusive proposals (including, and most naturally, those of science). So, and from which, he can see that his proposals simply cannot be coherently selected. That he can have them, but ultimately from precisely the same wishful-thought basis that a boy on a rooftop can have knowledge of his ability to fly like Superman after watching a Superman movie. Go ahead and put him explicitly in the position of having to publically renege on your agreement, or else renounce his theism. [Note: Our side has been in the position to do this for at least the past couple of hundred years; but, in general, we have not. For some thoughts on how and why that has been, and whether our reticence has indeed been justifiable, please see another of the short essays at my blogsite: 'The Cuddly Kitten'.]
Primers for Step 3:
The essay ‘Truth?’ (access via 'view my complete profile' at the blogsite).
William Clifford’s classic essay ‘The Ethics of Belief’.
George Smith’s ‘The Case Against God’.
Michael and Monier’s essay collection ‘The Impossibility of God’.
General recent writings of the ‘new atheists’ (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, Daniel Dennett, Michael Shermer, Anthony Grayling, et al).
For more still, my main URL is http://www.poppersinversion.blogspot.com . Any and all feedback welcome.