Do I really "know" anything about God existing?

Do I really “know” anything about God existing?

What consequences does the God Possibility have for what we actually do or know? I am not saying that the God Possibility makes God truly exist. It just states that it is possible that God may exist or may not exist. If God does not exist, then a lot of my beliefs I have right now are false. For example, I believe that Jesus was resurrected after being dead for three days. Thus the God Possibility suggests that it is possible that a lot of my beliefs right now are false.

I assume, at least for the moment, that the God Possibility is not valid, and since a lot of the beliefs I have right now might be false. There are two responses I might have to the idea that a lot of my beliefs might be false.

First, “If it is possible that a belief I have is false, then that belief is not one that I can say I really know.” I might believe that a giant sea creature lives at the bottom of the ocean. Since I have never been there it is possible, however unlikely, that the sea creature lives at the bottom of the ocean. I really can’t say that I really know that there is not a sea creature living on the bottom of the ocean. I am not saying that I should not continue believing what I do. I have to believe what seems most likely to me. But this shows to me that these things aren’t actually things I know. This is similar to the skepticism of Descartes. He suspended belief in anything that could possibly be doubted. Descartes used a malicious demon to employ the idea of possibility. This possibility of a demon deceiving him was enough to cast doubt on his knowledge.

The other response say: “If I look at how I actually use the word ‘know’ in reality, I will see that there are many types of situation that I possibility have a false belief, but I can still call it knowledge.” In the real world I accept possibility as knowing without consideration. In my daily life I do not consider the possibility that my beliefs are false. Why do I do this when I am philosophizing? What is the deal with a different set of standards for knowledge, especially when in my daily life I ignore this possibility? In my daily life when someone tells me my belief maybe false, I do not care. This is because possibility does not matter, it is probability. Until someone gives me a good reason to think that my belief is not possibly false, but probably false, I am not changing anything about what I believe or what I think I know.

I lean toward the second response, as many other people. Perhaps we can reconcile the two views of God by understanding them as two different senses of knowledge. We can not have absolute knowledge unless there is no possibility of it being wrong at all. I do not feel that the existence of God falls into this category. Therefore this is ordinary knowledge. Ordinary knowledge is something even when there is a possibility of it being wrong it is considered “knowing”. Both atheist and religious can agree that the God Possibility shows that we do not have absolute knowledge of God’s existence. It does not count out ordinary knowledge and that we must decide if it is a possibility or probability.

I am going to make a shift in thought, bear with me. A person can not have entirely false beliefs. If a belief is false it must be based in a true belief. We can only make sense of a person having a false belief if the backdrop of the false belief is true. The thought that someone has only false beliefs only makes rational sense when we are focusing on all the false beliefs instead of the true beliefs of the backdrop we are not attributing to them. Thus the idea of the God Possibility must have a true belief before it can be false.

In the God Possibility the backdrop is the belief of God. Before we can determine the belief that God exist or not we must acknowledge the true belief of God. Once we understand the true belief of God then we can determine the probability of God existing. Since the God Possibility is ordinary knowledge and “knowing” is only a possibility not an absolute we must then make the determination of the possibility being a probability. This is the difficult situation that arises in many different discussions. What does one use for the determination of probability?

It turns my stomach when I see this argument in a philosophy setting result in terms such as illogical or irrational. How do you determine what is irrational or illogical? Many say ignoring the evidence or facts but that is only one function of logical thinking in a “possibility” situation. The brain-in-a-vat possibility is hard to argue using evidence and facts because those facts have the possibility of being falsified by the evil scientist creating the illusion in your mind. That situation of possibility is usually argued by the concept of seeing and touching or dreams. The logical argument is the argument of the senses and experiences. Every person has different logical thinking to determine the God Possibility as a probability or not.

I have learned the way to truly understand and discuss with a person about their belief in God existing or not existing is by first understanding their true belief in God. Next I have to always remember it is a possibility that can never be denied as a possibility. Then remember that it is ordinary knowledge and must be treated as ordinary knowledge. Finally, I have to listen to them and try to understand the logic they used to conclude it as a probability or not.

Yes, it’s possible that anything which is possibly existent – gods, sea monsters, witches, the luminous ether, a moon made of green cheese, or whatever else we can imagine – may possibly exist.

So what does this possibility of existence tell us about whether any of these things actually exist? Nothing.

So what is it that might tell us whether any of these things actually exist? Evidence.

The only relevant question to ask when someone says that X exists (assuming that X’s existence is not self-evident) is: What is the evidence that supports your claim?

If the evidence is something insulting like “God exists because he was resurrected from the dead. I know this is true because I read in a book that a few anonymous people who lived a couple of millennia ago witnessed it”

. . . you should respond, “Ha ha ha. Very funny. Now, seriously, what is your evidence?”

Correct, possibility of existence tells us nothing about things actually existing.

Evidence does not tell us whether any of these things exist, probability tells us whether any of these things exist. How do we know our evidence exist or even that existence exist and we are not a brain-in-a-vat? Probability. This is done by logical thinking, not evidence, evidence is only a possibility and logical thinking determines if it is probable or not.

If your only relevant question is asking “What is the evidence that supports your claim?” My only question to you is what logical thinking makes your evidence a probability not a possibility? As I said in my first post, “This is because possibility does not matter, it is probability. Until someone gives me a good reason to think that my belief is not possibly false, but probably false, I am not changing anything about what I believe or what I think I know.” Your evidence does not stand alone because all evidence is a possibility. You are clearly in agreement that possibility tells us nothing, since evidence is a possibility, evidence does not tell me anything. Therefore, I need your logical thinking that made your evidence a probability, not a possibility and I explained in the first post how this is done.

Probability is a function of evidence.

No, sir, that’s not true. There is no “probability” that we either are or are not brains-in-vats. There is only the “possibility” that we are. We merely assume that we are not brains-in-vats although it may be the case that we are.

Logic tells us nothing about our world. Logic is only how we think about the world. It puts constraints on what it is that is possible to be thought about the world.

Logic tells us only whether conclusions validly follow from premises. Whether the premises or conclusions are true, however, is irrelevant to logic.

If you want me to respond to your comment I ask you refrain from Logical Fallacies. I do not respond to contextomies. If you wish to have a logical discussion about the topic, then readdress your comments and replies without these fallacies.

No offense, but I could care less whether you respond or not. I only wanted to point out for the record that only evidence can make an a posteriori claim more or less probably true and not logic as you seem to believe is true.

If the only means you can use to point this out is by way of a logical fallacy, then that explains enough for me about your point you are making. I was hoping you had more than that to offer.

I’m curious if people who believe in God can be allowed empirical intances to back up that belief that may not fall into everyone’s realm of thinking. I’ve seen people who denounce scientific findings who have no religious affiliations. Is everything a subjective matter of how beliefs and findings are accepted. Can the Bible be considered as an empirical form of evidence, or a belief of the heart , or experience of someone who has had some sort of epiphany which can not be explained scientifically? It has been my observation that what is one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. A lot of Aesop’s fable’s with their moral affectations were fromed from stories of the Bible. I find it troubling a small segment of population considers a larger portion to have fallacious notions due to the numbers of people who think that way.

Can you explain an empirical form of evidence that does not have a possibility of being false? I have not found one. That was at the source of my original post. That is the foundation of my argument. If you can offer a foundation that contains empirical evidence that does not have a possibility of being false, I am curious to hear it.

This foundation of all evidence possibly being false creates the function of logic. Every person uses this logic to consider if the evidence is a probablity or not. How we use this logic varies greatly between people. I believe this is the point you are hitting. You are asking about science but there are many others ways to determine if evidence is probable or not. Some times people use the wrong form of logic when considering these things, but that is according to my logic, but it does not discredit them as using logic.

I used the brain-in-the-vat possibility to explain this in the original post. Can we use science to determine if this possibility is false or not? I do not think so, because most science relies on the foundation in question. The logic many use for this possibility is their experiences, such as dreams. “If we are in a dream world, how can dreams be possibly?” This is using experience through logic to explain that what we are experiencing is not a dream world. Other logical arguments use the seeing and more important touching concept. Seeing can be deceived by impulses sent to our brain from the demonic demon, but can touch really be deceived? Are we really feeling what we feel? Since there is no empirical evidence to confirm we are not a brain-in-a-vat, we use the probability that we are not, from the use of our logic.

To answer your question “Is everything a subjective matter of how beliefs and findings are accepted?” I would say yes because everything we know is done from the probability perspective not empirical evidence. If everything is possibly false, our beliefs and finding are accepted based on the idea that the beliefs and findings are probably true.

Sorry, but it’s just that you are using terms in such unfamiliar ways that I am having a very difficult time following your point.

Take the term “logic,” for instance. What do you mean when you say “This foundation of all evidence possibly being false creates the function of logic”?

Evidence given in an argument has nothing to do with the logic of the argument. Logic is best described as something like “the science of correct inference.” Logic is what we use to determine whether an argument’s conclusion validly follows from its premises.

Just to make sure we’re on the same page here, do you agree that the following argument is logically valid?

All green men are Martians.
President Bush is a green man.
Therefore, President Bush is a Martian.

The conclusion, of course, is false, but the argument itself is logically valid. Right?

And the following is invalid:

One person who was born in Connecticut and raised in Texas is President of the United States.
George Bush was born in Connecticut and raised in Texas.
Therefore, George Bush is President of the United States.

The conclusion of this argument is true but the argument itself is invalid. Agree?

Further, an argument cannot be logically valid for you and at the same time logically invalid for me. An argument is always either valid for both of us or invalid for both of us (and for everyone else, as well).

Evidence, OTOH, is only something that is helpful in discerning the probable truth of a proposition. Physical evidence is discovered by methods such as those exemplified by science. Since evidence has nothing to do with logic, what does it mean to say, as you do, that “Every person uses this logic to consider if the evidence is a probablity or not”?

What does it even mean in the first place to say that “Evidence is (or is not) a probability”???

Evidence can be either relevant or irrelevant to the truth of a proposition, but I have no idea about what it means to say that “evidence is probable.”

Is it possible for you to flesh out more fully what you mean by this?

I will gladly clear those up if I can for you. I think you must look at the situation much deeper than what you are right now. I think you are holding onto what I referred to in the original post as ordinary knowledge as true. As I stated most of us have this response to the original question, but I am coming from the premise before this conclusion is made. Maybe answering your question more in depth will help.

I mean all evidence is possibly false. Stop and think for a minute, is there anything that you can not find a way to question that it is not true? Even existence can be questioned. This is done by the example set forth by Descartes and his evil demon scenario. If you are not familiar with it, it states that we being deceived by an evil demon. The evil demon has created an illusionary external world you think you live in, but no external world actually exists. The evil demon has deceived you to believe a complete illusion of your own body, and all of your perceptions, where in fact you have no body.

Since you have been presented with this possibility of your own body, perception and even external existence not being true but possibly false, how do you respond? I gave two different responses in my original post. I am confident you will follow the second response, so we will ignore the first right now. You must use your logic to consider if this possibility of the demon deceiving you is probable or not.

All the evidence you have at your disposal can be used, as you state, “What is the evidence that supports your claim?” The problem you face is that all this evidence is now in question. What evidence do you have that is not affected by this possibility that a demon is deceiving you? You do not have any at all. All evidence at your disposal is a possibility because of the possibility of the demon deceiving you.

What is the only means you have to counter such a possibility? Your logic. This is how the foundation of all evidence possibly being false creates the function of logic. I agree with your examples of logic and that function of logic, but I am pushing logic farther, because it is the only way out of this catastrophe created by possibility. Instead of thinking of logic as the validity of a conclusion, logic is the means to determine the probability.

Every piece of evidence is now in question because of the evil demon scenario. The only way out is to logically put together evidence as you did in your examples. But the only problem that occurs in this scenario that did not in yours is the outcome is unknown, as the first response to the original question suggested (but remember we threw out that response). You have to make the determination that the evidence that has now become a possibility is probable or not.

Many have used very different ways to get out of the possibility of an evil demon deceiving them. The universal method is logic. They logically put together evidence and create probabilities. The probabilities lead them through to the probability that a demon is or is not deceiving them.

This is true in the scenarios that you represented, but in the case of possibilities it does not stand. They are logically valid because we are basing them on ordinary knowledge and that it is true. But when you deal with possibilities they show me that these things aren’t actually things I know.

We do not know if Martians are green. We first have to make a determination if Martians are green or not. If my perception is possibly being deceived we can not know for fact that Martians are green or even that Martians exist.

Do you understand how we can come to two different conclusions in a possibility scenario because it is all based on probability? Because it is based on probability neither of the two of you are saying it is true, you are saying it is probable.

In our everyday life we have discarded the concept of possibility and probability and call it knowing. The pitfall we tumble into is we then move these probabilities to facts and evidence. Do not misunderstand me. I use these probabilities as knowing in my everyday life too. But when we move into philosophical or logical dicussions, the awareness of probability has to resurface. This fundamental form of logic used to determine probability must also return. If not we are now relying on dogmatic truth that have no basis because of the possibility scenario they rest upon.

Reality Check, do not take this as an attack. I only want to show you how this works. You stated that it is possible, but you assume that we are not. If you want to grasp something you do not assume. If you want to really have a belief in something you try to understand it, do not assume.

This is the fundamental function of logic. You work through a belief until you come to a probability not a possibility. I have worked this through, it is no longer a possibility for me, it is a probability that I am not a brain-in-a-vat. Because it is a probability, in my everyday life I say I “know” it.

If I am ever asked how I know it, I can easily explain my logic used to form it a probability. Too many people do not understand this function of logic and end up with nothing more than facts that can be disputed or argued. Then the conversation turns into whose evidence is correct and whose is wrong (even though all evidence is a possibility). This never usually ends up going anywhere. This is because their beliefs are based on assumptions and dogmas, they never used logic to form them out of a possibility into a probability.

If it’s OK with you, oz, in the interests of my better understanding your position and, hopefully, of your better understanding mine, I’d like to take this one step at a time. I get confused when too much is given to me all at once. :slight_smile:

So, in that vein and since we seem to (but perhaps don’t really) have a slight disagreement about the nature of logic, I’d like to start here:

Do you agree that the argument . . .

All green men are Martians.
President Bush is a green man.
Therefore, President Bush is a Martian

. . . is a logically valid argument, not just for me, but for you and for everyone else, as well?

I will slow down. Your statement makes it clear we have a disagreement with logic. I will break it down father and try not to give too much information.

No it is not. You are using the laws of deductive logic. It is deductively consistent but you have a possibility. Your deductive rules of inference are correct, but you have a possibility.

Probabilistic rules of inference must be used for the statement to be coherent. The statement “All green men are Martians” must first be conditioned, giving it a degree of belief (understood by the degree of probability). Because you now have a less-than-absolute premise (a degree of probability) you must use inductive logic, not deductive logic.

The number of people that are green among the existing Martians that we have ever seen is all.
President Bush is a random sample of a green person used to determine whether or not green people are Martians.
No other type of person we have ever seen is green.
Therefore with a strong degree of probability President Bush is a Martian.

If you noticed I had to put in another piece of information “No other type of person we have ever seen is green.” If I did not have this information I would have to look for another to create the probability. I needed another premise to support the conclusion. If I had the information that “other types of people are green” then it would move back into possibility and not a probability. Or possibly into the category of not being probable.

In deductive logic the conclusion entails a guarantee of the truth, but inductive logic entails a degree of strength that the conclusion is true. It depends on the degree of probability of the premises used for the conclusion and the strength of the premises working together.

Of course this statement is incoherent. Deductive logic is true or false. Inductive logic is coherent or incoherent. Deductive logic as you stated does not give you the validity of truth. That is because it does not determine truth. Truth has to be absolute in the premises of the statement to be true. In inductive logic it does validate the probability of truth. I only stated the logic to fit your example, if it was truly my logic when a possibility is present it would go as the following:

The number of people that are green among the existing Martians that we have ever seen is zero.
There is no available random sample of a green people used to determine whether or not green people are Martians.
There is no available random sample of Martians to use to determine whether or not Martians are green.
I have never seen a green person.
I have never seen a Martian.
Therefore with a strong degree of probability President Bush is not a Martian.

Not only did my logic become coherent it also lead me to a strong belief that Bush is not a Martian, something deductive logic can not do. As I stated in previous posts, in our ordinary lives we consider these strong probabilities as “knowing”. So logic not only led me through your scenario but also gave me the knowledge that I believe to be true.

This is a very simplified version. There are many logical equations used for probability, but I am trying to not give that much information right now to you.

I am using “the laws of deductive logic” because what I’ve given you IS a deductive argument. It is of the form:

All Gs are Ms
B is a G
Therefore, B is an M

The validity of an argument depends ONLY upon the form of the argument. As I mentioned earlier, the validity of an argument tells us nothing about whether the conclusion of the argument is true.

A valid argument is an argument in which the conclusion cannot be false and the premises be true at the same time. So if the conclusion of a valid argument is false, at least one of the premises must also be false. The argument above that concludes “Bush is a Martian” is valid but it is not sound. It is not sound because at least one of the premises is false.

All I want to establish at this point is that we agree on what it means to call an argument “logically valid.”

Reality Check, I said you used the laws of deductive logic correctly, but it is not a deductive argument unless your only means of logic consists of dogmas and assumptions. Your validity of an argument is only dependent on the form of an argument if your goal is to create a dogma.

We do not agree on what it means for an argument to be “logically valid”. You consider it to be “logically valid” if it is valid in the form presented. I consider it "logically valid” if it is presented in the logically valid form and is presented logically valid in that form. Logic is two fold, the validity of the presentation and the validity of the form.

Tortoise, you said the key phrase “If you assume that the premises are true,” you are now assuming, not using logic. Therefore your statement is an assumption or dogma. If you are using logic you do not make such a flaw. The way to avoid this flaw is inductive logic. If you use deductive logic on an assumption or possibility, no matter your results, it is what we refer as deductive incoherence.

Tortoise, I will repeat again, logically valid is two fold, the validity of the presentation and the validity of the form.

Yes your statement is valid, but it is not logically valid because it has a possibility in the premise. You are using an assumption therefore the form of the argument is logically invalid, not the validity of the argument. Your form of the argument is deductively incoherent.

Tortoise, do you understand that “all toes are red” is a possibility, not a absolute fact? It is an assumption. “All frogs are toes” is another assumption. That means that “Therefore, all frogs are red” is a valid assumption. What the hell are you doing? Validating assumptions!!?? That is why you are ending up with something that does not tell you if it is true or not. You are wasting your time and not even using logic. You are using the principle of deductive logic incoherently. That is why we call it deductively incoherent.

If you want to use logic, and logically validate the statement you use inductive logic. You take the first statement “all toes are red” and use the Principle of Conditional Probability. Once you have the conditional probability of the first statement, you do the same for the next statement. You use inductive logic on the conditional statements (premises) and come to a logically valid argument that gives you the probability of the conclusion.

Unlike deductive logic which gives you nothing but the validity of assumptions, you now have a degree of belief (degree of confidence). It is by this degree of belief that we know if the conclusion is true or not. That is how you logically validate a statement with an assumption.

Oz, what you are calling “valid” most people call “sound.” An argument is valid if and only if its conclusion cannot be false and its premises true both at the same time.

An argument is “sound” OTOH if it is both valid and if its premises are true.

The concept of validity as it is normally used in logic deals only with the form of a deductive argument and not with the truth or the probable truth of the argument’s premises or conclusion.

“All green men are Martians; George Bush is a green man; therefore, George Bush is a Martian” is a perfectly valid, yet unsound argument.

The form of the argument is valid because it is not possible for both the conclusion of the argument to be false and for the argument’s premises to be true at the same time.

The argument is unsound because at least one of the argument’s premises is false (i.e., George Bush is not a green man).

Validity in argument is an important concept that really only applies to deductive argument and not to inductive argument. Rather than to say that an inductive argument is either “valid” or “invalid,” we should say that such an argument is either “strong” or “weak.”

We need to agree on this before we can move forward.

We are building in the same direction now. Sorry I have jumped so far ahead. I was assuming this was all established. I will step back on what I was saying to this point. Yes, we are in agreement. I will hold off on my argument against these structures just to make sure we are on the same page.

Valid argument: An argument such that it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.
Invalid argument: A deductive argument such that it is possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.
Sound argument: A deductive argument that is valid and has all true premises.
Unsound argument: A deductive argument that is either invalid or has one or more false premises (or both).
Strong argument: An inductive argument such that it is improbable that the premises be true and the conclusion false.
Weak argument: An inductive argument such that the conclusion does not follow probability from the premises.
Cogent argument: An inductive argument that is strong and has all true premises.

Are we in agreement? If so, then I will work from here to explain my argument, and work off of these terms.