Human perception and God

The fact that we can not perceive God with our 5 senses tells us only 1 thing. That is; We do not need to have knowledge of God in order to reproduce and survive. Our senses tell us absolutely nothing regarding the existence of God. The question is answerable in neither exacting nor in probabilistic terms.

Is there some logically possible “thing” that cannot be perceived by humans that cannot exist? No.

Are there not, in fact, an unlimited number of logically possible “things” that cannot be perceived by humans which might exist? Yes, there are.

So what makes a god that cannot be perceived any more likely to exist than an astronomically-huge-number of other things which likewise cannot be perceived? Nothing.

Therefore, doesn’t a god that cannot be perceived in any way have about a one-in-an-astronomically-huge-number chance of actually existing?

If not, why not?

Why can’t we perceive God with our five senses?

Who says there isn’t a sixth sense made specially for that purpose?

While I’ll accept your basic premise that humans cannot perceive a god-notion in a standard way, I would argue that since belief in the “unseen world” exists in every human culture there is clearly a connection between the state of being human and not only the capacity for such beliefs but also a propensity for them. While this has no bearing on the ultimate truth of any particular god, I do think it is fair to say that we come equipped with these beliefs in the same way we come equipped with language: nothing specific, but a universal tendency to both form and operate within certain parameters.


How do you know that God can’t be perceived in any way? Being human, we might know that we can not perceive Him with our 5 senses. Evolution says we evolved for survival. Since belief in God is not necessary for survival, we never evolved the machinery to physically perceive him. Or maybe we are in the process of evolving the physical machinery to physically perceive Him right now, and that’s what faith is all about.


You have grasped my point! There are a myriad of things that we do not perceive. It is likely that we only perceive a small part of reality. We physically perceive only those things necessary for our survival. Evolution dictates that. If evolution is true and continuing, then when/if there is a survival need to physically perceive GOD…then we will evolve the ability to perceive him.


Perhaps the universal belief in the unseen world has its roots in reality. Perhaps it is the beginning of our evolving to a point where we will physically perceive God. This is no more fantastic than the evolution of our ability to see. White light happens as electrons are excited to throw off photons. The photons hit a tree leaf. All wavelengths except green are absorbed by the wave resonances in the leaf molecules. The wavelength that hits our retina is the one that corresponds to green. This is translated into an electric signal and sent along the optical nerve to the back of our brain. The brain reads the electronic signal and puts a TOTALLY FABRICATED image of what we call GREEN into our minds. There is no green…our brains make it up. But is it real? Yep. That’s what we call reality. I think that the existence of God is no more fantastic than the color Green.

Well, I’m something of a qualophile, so I’m not so sure green doesn’t exit :wink:. Granted, I can’t see red/green, but that is neither here nor there.

But I think that at junctions like this, it is prudent to consider a variety of options and go with the one that is most consistent given what we know about the world. I’ll use an example that I’ve been thinking a lot about this past weekend: prophetic dreams.

I rarely remember my dreams, during any given year I’ll probably remember somewhere around a dozen dreams. Of these, around two are likely to be prophetic dreams. Now, what do I mean by “prophetic dreams”? If it were just a jumble of shapes and images that I then re-organized into a cognizant narrative around events in my life, I do not think they would could since those could be faked later (you see this sort of thing a lot with quack: Ohhh, I misinterpreted the bird!). No, during these dreams I will either be talking to someone or reading a letter from them and they will explain what is going on in their lives in great detail and they give me information that I couldn’t reasonably expect to know. For example, a while ago I dreamed that a friend of mine I hadn’t spoken to for several months had begun secretly dating someone a week ago. The dream was so vivid, I actually thought I had actually had the conversation with them and so when I called them the next day and asked them about their secret boyfriend, I thought I was working on old knowledge. The more recent example dealt with a friend that I have not seen for nearly 8 years and have spoken with them on the phone only sporadically and generally not about anything of consequence. Well, in my dream, they told me a variety of details (most of them dealing with how the individual’s marriage was going, specific emotions about their scheduled deployment, ect). I could go into more detail and list more examples if you’d like, but I think these dreams pass the test of being both accurate (what they present is true) and specific (the details are not vague and cannot be interpreted ambiguously after the fact).

Despite this, I don’t actually think these dreams are prophetic at all. They all deal with people that I know quite well and given what I know about them, extrapolating that information to describe their present conditions isn’t too hard. Plus, even sporadic contact allows one to see how they are changing (oftentimes better than regular contact, actually). So, having a solid base plus a reasonable rate and manner of change, developing a system from that and using that system to accurately predict what is going on in their lives (even down to fairly specific details) isn’t too hard, especially for the subconscious.

What we have here is a good example of human pattern-making/observing behavior. Now this is something that I think we can all agree people can do, and I think we can all agree that such a faculty would be advantageous under selective conditions. God is the same way, the subconscious mind putting a pattern together that more-or-less aligns with reality according to what is known. That is why most pro-God arguments either boil down to “God-of-the-gaps” arguments, because there is an unknown portion of the pattern which can be filled in with the ambiguous “God” and why many other arguments are experiential, they have felt their pattern-making ability working and associate it with God.

I would suggest that God of the Gaps is the root of all descriptive metaphors and positing of attributes to such an entity. It begins with human observation of cause and effect. Simple this causes that. But what happens when we see affect, but do not understand or perceive cause? We grant agency (cause) to the unknown. First, as animists - there are tree spirits, animal spirits, etc. The spiral is into greater complexity, greater powers of agency until we have the plethora of concepts and attributes we see today. It really doesn’t make any difference if there is a god or not, we would have invented Her, just as we would have to invent a devil or evil spirits The concept of God(s) is granting agency and intent to the unknown.

I don’t see the connection. We perceive lots of things that are not obviously necessary for survival. I perceive a cartoon on TV. How is the cartoon consequential in regard to my survival?

Conversely, there are many things that are vital to my survival that I do not perceive. I’m sitting in my garage with my car running. CO builds up. I cannot see it, taste it, hear it, feel it, or touch it. I die.

The point I would make about this is that we could be in the process of evolving the ability to sense anything that it is logically possible for us to sense. We could be in the process of evolving the ability to sense heretofore undetectable extraterrestrials among us who secretly control our world and everything that goes on in it.

Simply because it is possible for something to happen is not even the slightest reason – not the slightest! – to believe that it is happening or that it will happen.

How do you know there are myriad things that we do not perceive? How is it possible to know what we do not know?

That is a contradiction.

Why is this “likely”? In fact, it is no more “likely” than is the possibility that we have grasped ALL of reality.

Actually, evolution “dictates” no such thing and in fact there are many things that we perceive which have no obvious consequence for our survival.

What putative entities is your claim NOT true of? IOW, according to your theory, when/if there is a survival need to physically perceive LITTLE GREEN WOMEN IN BIKINIS FROM MARS, will we not also evolve the ability to perceive them, as well???

Why, then, isn’t such a claim trivial?


Gaps? I’ll tell you some gaps. Our sensors turn information that comes in from the outside world into electricity. We need a method to distinguish between the electrical impulses that allow us to survive and the ones which signal danger. The distinguishing characteristic is the gap. We fill it in with blue, yellow, brown, sweet, loud, soft, dry, stinky etc. But what is the nature of all these things that we sense? Our mind simply makes it up. There’s no other way to explain it. Reflected wavelengths hitting the retina shoot current down the optic nerve. Its no more than a radar ping. Yet we see blue. Our mind made it up, and yet it is real.

Experiments in Quantum Physics verify that human observation changes the state of the physical world too. In the famous double slit experiment, there is hard evidence that a single photon is in two places at the same time (interference patterns). Yet, when observed, the photon appears in the slit that is observed and not the other slit. This is mind-boggling and we rush to say its bullshit. But what if its just something that we don’t have the hardware to perceive? It wasn’t necessary for the survival of the fittest to perceive how this happens.

Also; how about atomic clocks….sync em up….take one to the top of Mt Ranier for a week and leave the other in Seattle. The one that was on the mountain will be ahead of the one that stayed at Seattle when you get back there. Now what are we not observing there….we didn’t need to know to survive…so evolution said “To hell with it.”

Or take the enigmas of Entanglement, where a change to a particle at one location causes a corresponding change to a seemingly unconnected particle a huge distance away. ….what are we missing?..again Evolution says “No need to know”.

Or fiddle with Einstein’s relativity. Like playing ping-pong on a train. Relative to the person on the train, the ball goes from one end of the table to the other, so its speed and and the time it took to traverse the distance can be calculated. BUT for a person standing along the track, the speed and distance are TOTALLY different because they see the train travel down the track with the ping pong table in it. So how can the same ping pong ball go at 2 different speeds for 2 different distances at the same time…answer its relative. So we are cooped up in our little world in our little 5 senses and we are like the person on the train, not seeing the greater reality….because there is no way to observe what is outside the train…or outside of our puny limited existence with 5 senses out of a possible …say…3 million or so.

With this kind of uncertainty, don’t you think that it would be presumptive to categorically deny the existence of God? Not to say that this proves the existence of God, but when I hear folks say from their everyday experience, the evidence points to His non-existence I think a person is massaging his ego; OH THOU GREAT UNIVERSAL SAGE!. The beginning of all true knowledge is first to admit that you do not know. And, as with any experiment, you begin with a hypothesis…or with FAITH, as we Theists call it.


And what are you suggesting to do about a gap? Is it better to close your eyes and say “The gap does not exist” or is it better to have enough FAITH in a possible explanation to formulate a hypothesis that can constantly be tested, in search of conditions that would overturn it, and to have FAITH in your hypothesis until it is disproved? I dare say that both aboriginal man and modern scientists chose the latter option. If you say that you have FAITH that there is no God, then that puts you on an equal footing with one who says that he has FAITH that there is a God. The question then becomes which is more useful for you? If the God Concept has no use for you, go ahead and reject it. If the God concept is useful for someone else, they should accept it. In true scientific fashion, then, we should attempt to see why the concept is useful/not-useful for the other party…call it data gathering for experiments on our hypothesis. Upshot of it all…accept, respect, and value everyone and their ideas.


Please correct me if I am wrong, but your 2 posts seemed to center on 3 points;

  1. We have evolved the senses to perceive things that are not necessary for survival, while not being able to perceive things that threaten our survival “I perceive a cartoon on TV “, “CO builds up”.

  2. According to my logic, we must entertain ridiculous ideas “LITTLE GREEN WOMEN IN BIKINIS FROM MARS “.

  3. There is no basis to assume that there is much that we do not perceive “it is no more “likely” than is the possibility that we have grasped ALL of reality. “

As for point 1, why is it inconceivable to you that the survival senses that we have developed do not provide the occasion for collateral benefits. Like vision is necessary to see the poisonous viper, but at the same time lets us enjoy a cartoon . And if CO suffocation were such a widespread problem that only those few who evaded it survived, would you deny that we would evolve the ability to sense CO in our environment?

As for point 2, there is nothing useful in this idea. We only hypothesize when we have a need to fill. If there were something useful to be derived from this belief, it might merit investigation, but as nothing more than a ridiculous scenario to try to prove a point, this is not a useful concept.

As for point 3, Evolution does, indeed, dictate the “survival of the fittest”. The fittest are those best equipped to survive in the environments they inhabit. Humans inhabit but a small microcosm of all known environments, let alone unknown environments. Thus it is logical to assume that we have only evolved the equipment necessary to survive in this severely limited situation. That is, then, a very limited group of abilities or senses compared to those which might have evolved in all other environments.

You are assuming the mind and the world aren’t coextensive. Given that assumption, what you say follows, but I don’t share it.

I don’t see this as actually being a problem. It sort of boils down to a “so what?”. Matter and energy are ultimately the same thing, yet we perceive them to be different. I’m not arguing that our natural endowment is sufficiently clear to let us fully grasp the pattern of reality; indeed, given how darkly our scanner sees, one ought expect artifacts and perturbations. Far from in spite of what you are suggesting, much of what I am arguing is because of that!

I think your model of knowledge acquisition is reversed.

Not entirely true, FRET works on a quantum level, and I’ve been told that a similar mechanism has been suggested to be important in photosynthesis, though I’m admittedly not up-to-date in that area and it was only mentioned in passing.

Indeed, so what?

I’ve seen no good reason to believe in God, and knowing how prone we are to introducing artifacts into our understanding of the natural world, I am admittedly suspicious of using abstraction as methodology. I could certainly be wrong, but I will say that equating our ignorance with god does not seem a terribly pious route to take. And that is where the other shoe drops, god can’t exist as an abstraction, a by-word for the unknown. Any discussion of anything, god included, needs to be encumbered in some way for communication to be meaningful. This is where positive statements of what god entails become important, as well as the powerful cultural bias that we all share in having this discussion in English. So, I reject the abstraction as sloppy, ill-defined work, essentially meaningless, and as soon as we get into the specifics of any particular tradition (even something as vague as Deism or pantheism) various specific objections can be brought up.


The mind interprets the world. The mind is not the world. The mind is not a mirror image of reality. We don’t see electrons….we see shapes and colors.

I am not sure of your point here. I said human observation affects exterior observed reality, and how this works can’t be fathomed with our senses. The “so what” is that this is evidence for how little we can comprehend. It points to the folly of a closed mind that says something like God doesn’t exist.

I was talking about how proximity to massive objects affects passage of time. Incomprehensible but true. How you deduced that my model was reversed from this is equally incomprehensible.

FRET and entanglement are not related. See

Here I used relativity as an analogy for the human condition. Basically, we are blind people commenting on the beautiful colors in a painting. Especially when we proclaim that there is no God. We don’t have the wherewithal to determine that.

Actually the idea is the culmination of the Book of Job.

Our every interpretation of all stimuli that affect us is abstraction. Feel taste smell touch sound are all abstractions of external reality. Science keeps exposing gaps that support this contention. The only knowledge we have or can have is abstraction.

While we differ on much of what you write, actually my posts center on only one point.

That point is this: Even if one grants your core thesis, which is that a species develops perceptual abilities only for the purpose of survival, this still is not the slightest reason to believe that it is more likely that one day in the future our species will develop an ability to perceive gods than it is that we will develop an ability to perceive heretofore invisible extraterrestrials or odorless, tasteless gases.

Now, is such a thing possible? Of course it’s possible. It is possible just like it’s possible that we will find that our continued survival depends upon our suddenly developing the ability to perceive previously unperceivable Green Women In Bikinis From Mars or any other oddball scenario that someone might imagine. But possibility is trivial. Probability is what matters.

So, then, is it probable? No, in fact it’s not. There is not the smallest scrap of evidence to suggest that such a thing is in any way likely to occur. And evidence is what separates the trivially possible (events that have roughly a one-in-infinity chance of occurring) from the probable (events that have better than roughly a one-in-infinity chance of occurring).

That an event can happen is not the first bit of evidence that an event will happen. And that is my argument in a nutshell.


What are you missing here? Everyone has acknowledged the possibility of all sorts of possible scenarios beyond sensory capacity. You are saying that there is no proof of anything. OK. So what? Given illusion and delusion, no human is capable of claiming more than a representaional reality. Again, so what? We poor humans, stuck in Plato’s cave… (sniff)

Humans are, and always will be, probabalistic interpreters of a reality we will never see. Another so what? As RC and others have said, we approach all phenomena not with what is possible, but with what is likely.

The argument that simply because something can be imagined (god), then it must exist is poppycock. It is nothing more than a not-so-clever attempt to use possible as implied proof of unseen agency.

It is possible that you are a butterfly dreaming that you are a human. Not very likely, but by your definition, possible. By the same reasoning, the Matrix is possible, just not likely.

It is time to drop this tired old ploy of anything is possible, so God is.


I said it in my OP and I’ll say it again. The question is answerable in neither exacting nor probabilistic terms. I am not defending Theism here. I am attacking Atheism. Your contention that there is no God is THE ONE involves skewing the probabilities. You agree with what I say about the frailties of human observation, yet you hold to your position . Nobody would attempt to build a probability curve with an insufficient number of observations and NOT seeing an occurrence is not an observation! So I have every right to parrot back what you say about my belief in God, regarding your disbelief n God. Get real, Reality; you have no evidence to support your disbelief. Your disbelief is based just as much on faith as my belief. Its time to move on to the second step. What can faith Atheism do for you? I find my Theism quite useful indeed.


Come off it. You have no more evidence for your Atheism than I do for my Theism. I never set out to prove God’s existence by discounting the value of our observations. Don’t go setting up strawmen and knocking them down. Its clever debating, but it does nothing to make progress on the issue. There has never been a single Atheist on this board who has admitted that his Atheism is a matter of faith. The purpose of my original post was to show evidence that supports the weakness of human observation. So leave the matter of overwhelming probability behind; there is no overwhelming probability. There is simply faith one way or another. It becomes a matter of justifying your faith. I justify my Theism by defending its usefulness to me. How would you go about justifying your Atheism?