An Introduction to Philosophy Part 4 Truth 3 Gods - Transcript

Introduction to the Examination of Truth in Philosophy

[0:04] Hi, it's Stef. It is time I fix the color, just in case you're wondering.
It's not like your cataracts have suddenly cleared up.
I thought it would be worth having a chat today about the next phase of the examination of truth in this Introduction to Philosophy series of videocasts.
And now what we do is we have a look at the entirely non-controversial issue of the existence of deities.

[0:36] Now we've laid I've been sort of circling like a shark here we've sort of laid some foundations that I think are fairly important in the understanding of the existence of a deity we have got that central evidence or empirical logic are required to prove the existence or the truth value within a proposition.
So we're okay as far as that goes.
We've learned that all of the concepts in the mind must always give way to contradictory evidence or a lack of supporting evidence from the senses or from syllogistic reasoning.
And so now we are a little bit better prepared to have a look at the question of the existence of a deity without it just sort of being wild suppositions and back and forth and opinion and so on.
Of course, the whole purpose of philosophy, just as any empirical and logical science, is to take opinion out of the equation.

[1:35] So, that's sort of the whole point behind what it is that we're doing.

The Importance of Objective Truth in Philosophy

[1:39] Because, really, when it comes to the truth, it's not up to us.
It's not just something we make up. The truth of a mathematical proposition is not up to the mathematician.
The truth of a proposition in physics is not up to the physicist.
It's the question of whether a species exists or not is not up to the biologist it is something that we subject ourselves to in all humility to the evidence of the senses and to empirical and rational evaluation it's not up to us whether god exists it's not up to our preference it's not up to what we would like it's not up to what we were taught it's not up to our history it's not up to our desire for life after death it's not up to any of those things the whole point of philosophy Philosophy is to say, because the ideas in our mind are always going to wrap around and bow to the evidence of the sense of the logic, is to take the subjectivity and the opinions out of the equation as far as truth propositions go.

Describing properties does not prove existence

[2:41] Now, there's lots and lots and lots of ways and places to start with the existence of a deity, but let's start, you know, as I always try to do, let's start with the basics.
Now, the first basic is to understand that when you describe the properties of something, you are not proving that it exists. Very important thing.
If I say to you, dang fur exists, do you believe it or not?
Well the first thing you probably ask me is well i don't know can you tell me maybe a little bit more about what you mean by the word dang for and maybe i can tell you whether i think it exists or not and if i say to you ah well now you see dang for is blue i don't really feel that you would think that i'd clinch the case oh well if it's blue then of course it exists because you know you know, blue things exist and therefore Dankfur exists because it has within it the property blue.
So describing the properties of an entity in no way proves the existence of that which is being proposed. It's a very, very important thing to understand.

[4:00] So, if I say to you, do you believe that Dangfur exists?
And you say, well, I don't know, tell me a little bit more, blah, blah, blah.

Using familiar descriptions to establish existence

[4:10] And then I say, well, see, Dangfur has eight legs, a thorax, has beady little eyes, it's a member of the insect family, the arachnid family, it scurries around, and occasionally you squash it with a shoe when you can't get it into a cup of the newspaper.
And you say, oh, spiders! Spiders! Yes, spiders exist, of course.
I've seen spiders and so on, and listened to David Bowie songs, so I don't even know where they're from.
So, if I describe something to you using a word that you're not familiar with, and you may have played this game of 20 questions when you were a kid, then if I give you additional information that then corresponds that word with something that you've directly seen as part of the evidence of your senses, then we've made a step forward then I'm not asking you to believe in Darfur like a word or an imaginary thing that exists within my mind but I'm connecting the word to something that you have experienced directly through your senses, so describing the properties of something is only valuable in so far as it coincides with sensual evidence that you've received so far and.

[5:21] And this doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be something that you have directly, sensually experienced yourself.
So let's say you've never been to Scotland, and I say to you, do you believe in Darfur?
Sorry, Darfur is a place. Do you believe in Dangfur?
And you say, well, I don't know. And I say, well, Dangfur is like a landmassage.
It's a little bit north of England.
It's a little bit east of the Outer Hebrides. it's where Scottish people come from they eat a thing called haggis which you don't want to know about and they play things called bagpipes which you perhaps also don't want to know about and there's it's where.

[6:01] It's hilly and it's got lots of heather and so on and it's capitals Edinburgh you go oh at some point you're going to go oh Scotland.

[6:09] Well, yeah, I believe that Scotland exists. I've never been there, let's say.

Evidence of Scotland's existence without direct sensual experience

[6:13] I have, but let's say you haven't. You've never been to Scotland, but what I'm proposing in terms of saying, does Scotland exist, does not contradict all of the known properties of the universe that you already believe in.
Right? This is very important. We touched on this a little bit earlier when we were talking about America floating 14 feet above the ocean and being both fire and ice simultaneously.
Simultaneously so you can go to the international tourism of scotland website and and you can talk to people with muck in the beginning of their last name and you've seen tartans and maybe uh and and hopefully not on windy days and so you've got lots of evidence that something called scotland or a place called scotland actually exists and of course you could theoretically go there and so on but let's just say part of the debate that we're having then even though you don't have direct sensual evidence of Scotland itself.
You've got tons of evidence that Scotland exists. You can see photos. You can talk to people.
There's, I don't know, eight million, a billion hits on the website with regards to Scotland.
And so Scotland itself does not contradict all of the other sensual evidence that you've got about your countries, about other countries, and so on.
So even where you don't have direct sensual evidence, you can understand and accept that that a physical entity is going to exist if it is consistent with everything else and there's sort of tertiary sensual evidence and so on.

The concept of ether and Einstein's theory of relativity

[7:41] Now, if we go sort of slightly differently down this road, and there used to be something that was believed in before the Einsteinian revolution of early last century, which is called the ether, and the ether was considered to be this sort of vaguely invisible substance or completely invisible substance that was fixed, that you measured movement in relation to, And, of course, Einstein's theory of relativity proved that there is no central fixed point in the universe.
Everything moves relative to everything else. It's one of the things that he talked about, which many people, of course, mistakenly took as meaning that ethics are relativistic, that everything is relativistic.
And that, of course, was not Einstein's goal at all. It was really about physics, not ethics.

[8:22] But it was sort of a logical convenience for a variety of things that they believed in this substance called the ether.
Now, of course, one of the challenges with the substance called ether was that there was no way to prove or disprove that it existed.
There was no null hypothesis, as we talked about earlier. There was no way of saying that if this occurs, then ether does exist, and if this doesn't occur, then ether does not exist, and so on.
So when people started talking about woman, when people talked about ether, they were aware it was kind of like an unproven thing that was required for a variety of calculations but that it did not exist independently of observation or logic and so on, now the same thing could be if I say to you does ether exist, then you would say well there's no evidence for it there's no evidence against it there's no way to measure it, it's not logically required by everything and so on and so it would seem fairly logical to say that it doesn't exist exist.

Sensual evidence and the existence of X-rays

[9:20] Whereas if I say to you something like, I believe that dang fur rays exist, and you say, well, what are they?
And I say, well, you know, you put your hand in front of a photo plate, you shine these dang fur rays through it, you can see your bone fractures and so on, but you can't see your skin.
It's a way of looking through the body, so to speak. You say, oh, x-rays. Yeah, yeah. Okay. X-rays exist.
And how do I know? Because I can actually translate invisible x-rays into a visible form in the same way that you can translate sound through an oscilloscope into audible waves that you can see with your eyes.
So even a deaf person can sort of see sound if it's translated into another physical medium, in the same way a deaf person can put their hands on a speaker and feel the vibrations of the music, of course, particularly in a hip-hop club so when we put forward propositions about certain things existing number one direct fit sensual evidence right and corroborated by all the evidence of the census reproducible by others reproducible over time and so on that's one way of validating the existence of something another is that it could it conforms to sensual evidence that doesn't violate any of the known laws of physics or biology or logic.

[10:36] It's another way that it's consistent with other people's observations and so on. So we don't have to directly experience everything in order to believe that it exists.
But if somebody proposes something that violates or opposes all known laws of sensual evidence, of logic, of empiricism, of physical laws, biological laws, and so on, then we have a little bit of a problem.

[11:01] So, So, describing the properties of something does not prove its existence.
So, if I say to you, do you believe in dang fur, and you say, what is it?
And I say, well, see, dang fur is eternal.
Dang fur is omniscient. Dang fur is all-powerful.

[11:19] Dang fur lives forever, dang fur is everywhere, and yet cannot be detected, dang fur is virtuous, dang fur judges people, whatever, right?
All I'm doing is describing the properties of something in the same way that you could describe the character of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.
He's, you know, kind of unstable, he's like a murderer, he's, you know, whatever, he's vain, he's arrogant, he's insecure, whatever. whatever.
I'm simply describing the properties. It doesn't prove that Raskolnikov exists.
It simply is a description of the properties of something, but doesn't prove that they exist. I think we sort of understand that.
So, providing characteristics to a deity does not prove that that deity exists.
The fact that there is no sensual evidence whatsoever, ever, ever, anywhere throughout history and the present across the world, that there is zero sensual evidence for the existence of a deity.

[12:17] Is also a bit of a hump, right?
So, the fact that you describe properties of a deity doesn't do anything to prove the existence.
There is no sensual evidence for the existence of a deity anywhere in the world, through any measure.
And we've got pretty sophisticated ways of measuring matter and energy. Not a thing.
And, furthermore, the proposition that a deity exists violates all known laws of physics, biology, and logic.

The Hurdle of Deities' Existence

[12:49] So so there's a hump that's fairly significant for the proposal that deities exist to get over, now there's lots and lots of arguments about all of this stuff so you don't need me to elucidate them all for you i think i put some of them into a podcast number 13 i think it is but i think what's important and we'll just touch on a few of them here it's important sort of understand that there's is no such thing as consciousness with neither matter nor energy.
It's a complete violation of the laws of physics and biology.
Something which has neither matter nor energy in any detectable form, doesn't exist. Consciousness is an effect of matter and energy.
There is no such thing as consciousness that does not have matter and energy as a cause.
So, if there's no direct evidence, or even indirect evidence of matter and energy, and there's no such thing as consciousness in the absence of matter and energy and things don't exist if there's no matter and energy associated with them, then the proposition that God exists, which is consciousness with neither matter nor energy in any detectable form, it's problematic, let's say. Now...

The Inference of Black Holes and God's Existence

[14:00] You can look at something like a black hole, and you can't look directly at a black hole.
There's an intense gravitational mass that even light and no other forms of waves, energy, or matter can escape its gravitational pull.
You can't see a black hole in any way, shape, or form directly, but you can see what goes into the event horizon.
You can see that it pulls gas and matter off stars and sucks them into the gravity well.
You can see the effects of it on the orbits of various planets, and not in our solar system, thank heavens. but you can see a black hole, sort of quote, by its effects on others, right?
So, in the same way that you may not be able to see a shark, but you can see the ripple of it swimming just under the surface if it sort of thrashes its tail or something.
So you can sometimes infer the existence of things through their effect on other things, but even that effect, not only no direct sensual evidence for the existence of God, but no effect that can be measurable and reproducible for the existence of God. So that doesn't really solve the problem.
Now, there are other ways that people approach the existence of God, and they will say things like, well, where did the universe come from?
The universe exists, therefore it must have been created, it can't just have come from nowhere, and we call God the first cause that which created the universe. Well...

[15:21] Again, we sort of have a problem with this, and this is the very interesting thing about philosophy.
And as you begin to practice this within your own life, then you'll sort of begin to see what I mean.
Every time you put forward a proposition, it requires a standard, a universalization.
It's the same thing in science, right? In science, you don't just say, this rock falls down. You say, the principles of gravity, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

[15:45] Applies to all matter and so on. Now, if you put forward a proposition which says, well, the universe exists, where did it come from? Then you're putting forward a principle.
Every proposition involves one or more principles.
The principle is that which exists must have been created.

[16:04] Well, of course, if that which exists must have been created, then putting a God at the beginning of things doesn't solve the problem, because the principle is that which exists must have been created.
It and therefore if god created the universe god exists and therefore falls under the umbrella of that which exists must have been created and so you get this infinite causality uh chain of causality back to infinity which says that okay well the universe exists must have been created by god god exists must be created by god to god to exist must have been created by God three and so on.
So if you can accept the principle that matter and energy exist and have always existed which the second law of thermodynamics seems to support then you have already the existence of matter and energy in an eternal sense or in an eternal way therefore they do not need to have been created and so moving the chain of causality one step back and and saying, well, matter and energy had to be created, but God didn't have to be created, because God just existed eternally.
Well, then, of course, if something can exist eternally, why not just matter and energy, using Occam's razor, which is that the simplest explanation is usually the best.

[17:20] And the least contradictory explanation is usually the best, usually is the simplest, we can dismiss that argument.

The Contradictions in the Existence of God

[17:25] Because if you say, the universe exists, everything which exists must have been created, God has existed eternally, then you're trying to solve a problem, the universe exists, therefore it must have been created, which you've created that problem yourself, science has the answer for it, and then you've introduced a second entity, which is consciousness without matter, and purpose without form, and so on, which science doesn't support, court, and then you've created a rule which God is exempt from, right? That which exists must have been created.
God is exempt from that rule, so you've introduced a huge complication, you've set up a rule, and then you've immediately proposed a violation to that rule.
This doesn't work, my friend. This doesn't really work at all.
So, that's sort of one example of how the certain proofs of God simply just don't make any sense.

[18:13] Now in other areas you can say that when a proposed entity contradicts not only all known laws of physics and biology and logic but is self-contradictory itself then you have a further problem to the question of does god exist so uh to take an example and there's lots but i'll just I'll give you one here to one.
If you take the example of the combination of omnipotence and omniscience.
Omnipotent, all-powerful, omniscient, all-knowing. Now, let's take an example here that I think might be helpful.

[18:57] Let's say that I am both omniscient and all-powerful.
And so I, Stef, know that I'm going to have lunch at McDonald's tomorrow.
Well, that's called omniscient. I know everything that's happening, past, present, future, and so on. Very good.
Am I free to change whether I have lunch at McDonald's tomorrow?

The Contradiction of Omniscience and Omnipotence

[19:24] Very important question. If I am free to change whether I have lunch at McDonald's tomorrow, then I can't know for sure whether I'm going to have lunch at McDonald's tomorrow.

[19:40] If I know for sure that I'm going to have lunch at McDonald's tomorrow, then I can't change it.
So you can't be both all-knowing and all-powerful at the same time.
The two characteristics completely contradict each other.
So, there's sort of an example of what is often ascribed as characteristics to a deity simply contradict itself.
We have consciousness without matter. We have existence without former energy.
We have eternal life, which is never possible for any living organism.
We have an exception to the rule that that which exists has to have been created.
And last but not least and of course this is just the tip of the iceberg around these sorts of arguments we have contradictory, proposals about the nature of the being other than the ones we've just talked about in so far as omniscience and omnipotence are considered to coincide within the same organism or entity which is impossible, and of course solving trying to solve the problem by saying as some religious people do well you see God is outside of time and blah blah blah well that doesn't really, Doesn't really make any sense, right?
That's like if I say that my cup of coffee is both a cup of coffee and a pterodactyl at the same time, and you say, well, that's impossible, and I say, no, it resides in a universe where this is possible.

[21:06] It's outside of the constancy and object constancy of matter.
I haven't really solved the logical problem. I've just created a universe where it's possible.

God's Existence and the Problem of Omniscience and Omnipotence

[21:15] So saying that God is outside of time and the omniscience and omnipotence problem doesn't apply doesn't solve the problem, all you're doing is removing a criteria for proof, if I say 2 plus 2 is 5 and you say no it's not and I say yes it is because this 2 plus 2 is 5 exists in an alternate universe where 2 plus 2 is 5, well, good luck with that on your math test, let me know how it goes.

[21:43] So from that standpoint, we have lots of problems around the question of the existence of God.

[21:52] Now, there's lots of other criteria, of course, around the question of the existence of God, which we can talk about if you want another time, although it's in a lot of my podcasts, so we can sort of, I think, move on.
But the reason that we spend so much time trying to come up with this criteria for truth that truth is the degree to which our ideas correspond to what happens in sensual logical reality is for this very reason i mean not just for this reason but it is for this very reason and this very powerful manifestation of an error which is that we have an idea in our heads that that God exists, that is completely contradicted by all the properties of matter and logic.
And remember we said, and you may have agreed with this in terms of leprechauns and ghosts, that ideas within our head must always give way to ideas within reality.
Well, a deity, an eternal infinite consciousness without matter, blah blah blah blah blah, is an idea is an idea within our head.
Which is directly, directly contradicted by all the known properties of matter and energy and logic and empirical and sensual evidence and experience, and anything we can imagine.

[23:16] Now, if you feel that we can disbelieve in leprechauns because their nature is contradictory and because ideas within our head must always bow to the evidence of the senses and empirical logic, then you have no choice.

[23:33] If you wish to have any kind of intellectual integrity but to reject the idea of the existence of God this is not me saying to you you can't believe in God because that's bad this is not me saying to you you shouldn't believe in God because I'm telling you you shouldn't believe in God this isn't me saying to you you shouldn't believe in God because it's bad or I think it's wrong or anything like that it's not up to me, It's not up to me, and it's not up to you, whether gods, goblins, devils, governments, any of these sorts of things exist.
It's not up to you, and it's not up to me.

The Role of Biologists, Mathematicians, and Physicists

[24:15] Whether a biological species exists or not is not up to the biologist.
Whether a mathematical theorem is proven true or false is not up to the mathematician.

[24:27] Whether a hypothetical predictor of the behavior of matter and energy proves correct or incorrect is not up to the physicist. Is not up to the physicist.
And the truth of falsehood, of propositions about reality and logic and ethics and politics, whether those propositions are true or false is not up to you and it's not up to me it's up to logic and empiricism, the scientific method is about the testability and reproducibility of observations and logic it's not up to us what we believe it's not will, it's not voluntary it's not opinionated, it's not up to us whether a proposition is true, or a proposition is false.
A proposition can only be true or false the degree to which it accurately describes reality.

[25:21] And there is no higher reality. We talked about that in number one and two.
And the reason that I'm sort of being a little forceful about this is because, without a doubt, I'm going to get emails and complaints, and it doesn't matter to me.
I mean, you email a complaint to me, I'm just sort of trying to forestall you from sort of wasting your time if you happen to sort of be on the religious side of things and feel offended or feel that I'm taking away some special toy of yours, it's not up to me.
I mean, saying to me that I'm a bad person for not believing in God is like saying to a mathematician that he's a bad person because he doesn't believe that 2 plus 2 is 5.

[25:58] It's not up to the mathematician whether 2 plus 2 is 5. That's just the nature of reality.
It's not up to me whether or not the blood circulates in the body or sits there like a water balloon.
It's up to reality. You can't get mad at the person who says, hey, you know, the blood, it really circulates.
I mean, you can, but he's just observing and describing reality.
He's not trying to inflict an opinion upon you. It's just a fact.

Faith and Belief Contrary to Evidence and Logic

[26:21] So the reason that, people have trouble with this is because theologians have invented a special phrase for a certain kind of belief and of course that phrase or the word is called faith, faith is the word that is used to describe a belief in a proposition that is neither logical nor has any evidence whatsoever and is in fact counter Contra, to all logic and evidence.
Now, philosophers, who are honest, will not use the word faith.
I certainly don't like to use the word faith.
Because to me, somebody who believes something, contrary to all evidence, contrary to all logic.

Lack of Faith, Presence of Prejudice

[27:23] This is not somebody who has faith. This is somebody who has prejudice.
This is somebody who is bigoted.

Bigotry versus Faith: Challenging Unfounded Beliefs

[27:36] When you believe something contrary to all evidence, despite all reason, it's called bigotry. It's called prejudice.
It's not called faith. If I believe that all I've put forward, the proposition that all Chinese people are thieves, thieves, right?
You can reasonably, I think, question me and say, okay, Stef, well, have you ever had anything stolen from you by a Chinese person? I say, good lord, no.
And I say, you can say to me, well, Stef, do you have any evidence?
Do you have any statistics that prove that all Chinese people are thieves?
And I say, no. I say, well, why the hell do you believe this then?
It's faith it's faith I believe because I want to believe I believe because I prefer to believe I believe because I will believe it, it's just bigotry.

Reason vs. Prejudice: Attaching Ethics to Beliefs

[28:33] And the same thing is true, in particular, when you attach moral criteria, and we'll sort of get to the ethics, I'm going a little bit further ahead here than I'd planned, but, you know, we'll follow this lead.
When you attach ethical beliefs to, or ethical, if you attach ethical considerations to beliefs without reason, then it's absolutely bigotry. Prejudicial is simply I prefer to believe something in the absence of evidence.
When I associate morality with it, then it becomes a bigotry.
So if I say that all Chinese people have black hair, almost all Chinese people have black hair, well, this is a statement of fact. It's not bigotry. It's not prejudicial.
It's just a statement of fact. But if I say all Chinese people are evil, well, then I've sort of crossed over into another kind of realm where you would expect there to be a pretty strong criteria of proof, and if I did not believe, if I did not have any evidence for what it is I said, then I doubt very much that I would logically or morally be able to fall back on the consideration of faith, right?
So if I put forward a mathematical proposition that is based on the premise that 2 plus 2 is 5, and people say, you're wrong, and I say, no, I'm not wrong, I'm perfectly right.
And they say, no, you're basing it on 2 plus 2 is 5, and 2 plus 2 is not 5.
And I say, yes it is, because I have faith.
Because I have faith.

[30:01] Well, I tell you, it's a a, a, a, um, an honest philosopher will not accept the word faith.

Rationality and Empirical Evidence vs. Faith

[30:11] Any more than an honest physicist will accept the possibility of divine miracles in the absence of any kind of evidence, or or any honest or mathematician with intellectual integrity will accept a proof based on the proposition that 2 plus 2 is 5.
So, this is a strong way of putting it, and I do apologize, of course, if I've put it too strongly for you, but I think that it's very important to understand that it's a very important consideration.
And the reason that it's a little bit more forceful in this formulation or in my approach to it is because the existence of deities, the existence of countries, the existence of governments, the existence of different classes, and so on.
All of these things are very strongly believed in by a very large number of people and are very much counter to rationality and to empirical evidence.
And if we just use the word faith to excuse these kinds of errors, then we're really not going to make that much progress as a species, and we really need to make some progress as a species.
And we'll talk a little bit more more about this, of course, when we get into the realm of.

[31:18] Of ethics and politics. And what I'd like to do, with your kind permission, is I'll stop here as far as the existence of God goes, and we'll spend just a few minutes on the next podcast on questions of religion, which is a little bit different from the questions of the existence of God, which I think will hopefully make it a little bit more clear why I think it's so important that we examine these ideas with the rigor that they deserve.

Understanding Reality for a Better Life

[31:45] Thank you so much for listening. I appreciate you making it it to the end of a semi-forceful podcast, but I really think that if you can accept the truth behind these premises, and it's not my premises, it's just things derived from the nature of reality, then you can really make a quantum leap forward in your understanding, not just of religion, but of society, of ethics, of the collective, of politics, and so on, which is all required for the living of a happy and joyful life, in my view, and I'll sort of, don't take it on faith, right? I'm going to try and make the case as best I can.
Thank you so much for listening and I will talk to you soon.

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