Home > Christianity, Faith, God, Life, Religion, Science > Can God be scientifically tested?

Can God be scientifically tested?

This is a follow-up on a discussion on this topic from another blog but which I think could be moved here.

In the first reply post here, I responded to a post of some intelligent soul screen-named ‘irritable‘.

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  1. samuelprime
    January 10, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    I did not intend conclusively as severely as you have read it. I am not an atheist apologist, nor do I identify as an atheist.

    Okay, thanks for making it clear. I will let you live.

    In fact most scientists, if not science itself, seem to presume a philosophical realism with which I am not comfortable (but the reasons for my discomfort are philosophical, not scientific).

    Although I, like them, am a ‘realist’ (in some sense), I still believe in a number of different ‘realities.’ Reality isn’t just material, corpuscular, it could be other things—much as waves can describe the behavior of light in experimental domains that the corpuscular theory cannot.

    is God scientifically testable? Obviously my answer is in the negative. Yours would appear to be in the positive but so far, as interesting as your responses have been, you have not offered anything that convinces me of Gods scientific testability in a way that honors both words of that phrase.

    The difficulty could be due to the vagueness in the question. It did not define what ‘God’ is, nor did it define the criteria for what ‘scientifically testable’ is. This leads people to substitute their own definitions and criteria for each of these concepts, leading to debates and endless disagreements. Also, when we define ‘testable’ it is based on our current standards of scientific testing, no guarantee that future criteria for ‘testing’ could be broader and more advanced.

    If God is defined by the order of intelligence behind or created the universe (following Einstein’s definition, say), and if ‘testable’ includes or allows evidence of the intelligence observed in creation, then the observed intelligence is a reflection of that higher order of intelligence behind it. That is a ‘test’ in some sense of the word and it is scientific because it was something independently noted by people ever since ancient times—down to modern day scientists. If we found a mechanical device, like a watch, on another planet around another star, we are liable to say that some intelligent creature built it. So why not the universe which is infinitely more complex?

    Contrary to yourself (and other of your interlocutors), I have not called into question anyones love of science or knowledge about science.

    Have I questioned anyone’s love of science? If you look back, you will see that I did not. I merely spoke of my love of science. I did question some of their knowledge of it, as can be clearly seen in the many specific examples that I have cited (which contradicted their claims), the sad lack of examples by them, and their preferred devolution into rhetoric. But I excuse them because they sound quite young—God bless them.

    Defining God as having an empirical connection to the universe does not make it so. It makes it a definition.

    Of course, defining an object does not mean that it ‘exists’ or that it does ‘not exist.’ But rather it is to provide a common understanding as to what we mean by the word, so as to make the discussion meaningful. Our discussion, or debate, is whether there is evidence, or some tests of some kind, or observations, direct or indirect, that support existence of such an object. (And bearing in mind the spectrum of variations of testability itself and its degrees of strength.)

    This mitigates against Gods falsifiability because as potentially incriminating data come in that challenge our definition of God, we change the definition.

    Not if we stick, as we have, with the core definition of ‘God’ as we described above. That aspect of the definition has not changed and has been the common denominator. In this discussion I am not going by the definition of one specific religion—nor am I adding super-qualities like ‘omnipotent,’ ‘omniscient,’ etc.

    In some ways this is the theological equivalent of changing a hypothesis to fit new evidence, but it proceeds by very different rules of discourse and is not terribly useful to scientists.

    That’s a strange claim to make: that scientists don’t find God a useful hypothesis, as if all scientists think like that. It’s amusing that as much as you deny being atheist, you often play by their rules. Did you know that about 40% of American scientists believe in a personal God? One of them is Francis Collins who is director of the Human Genome Project. That excludes scientists who believe in a non-personal God, but still as creator (people like Einstein). There are some 27 Nobel Laureates in science who believe in God. I would argue that God is a terribly useful hypothesis in it accounts for this vastly complex order in the universe and explains the harmony of its laws, as well as it helps to show that the universe was created by one and the same ‘hand’ and ‘mind’ in the way so many things in it work with such harmony and such fitness. That’s the same idea behind the unification of the 4 forces of nature, that they are different aspects of the same one force, which has not been observed nor likely will, but they believe it based on indirect evidence (and experience). Many great scientists, after deeper reflection, have expressed views similar to the following one by Charles Darwin:

    Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.

    … but my understanding of scientific theory is that in order to be useful, a theory must predict testable outcomes

    Our observations of the numerous complexities of nature, as Darwin’s quote says, reflects test after test in themselves of God’s existence. Coming from people who are so close to nature, as scientists are, and then have so many of them arrive at that same conclusion regarding God is, at least, some significant testimony on its testability. It is a much more plausible hypothesis than the hypothesis of ‘blind chance’ which requires no intelligence.

    If you believe that God (intelligence) is untestable scientifically, then how about the contrary hypothesis that it was by ‘blind chance’? Is that scientifically testable? I say it is testable, and it has been falsified being as it is in direct contradiction with nature’s utter complexity. A number of people treat ‘chance’ as if it is their ‘god’ who ‘created the world’—the only problem is that it requires infinitely more faith to believe so much intelligence is a result of blind chance than the result of Great Intelligence. Take your pick, but out of those two alternatives, only one is the simplest hypothesis—which, following Occam’s razor, it would have to be the God hypothesis.

    I fail to see where God, as an hypothesis, offers testable conclusions.

    Thanks for admitting your failure to see it, I rest my case. (Just kidding.) I think the above comments, and the ones to follow, already answered that.

    Of course if we define God as the creator of the universe, then the universe itself is all the evidence we need. Its all very neat but it is not science, at least for us unsophisticated rubes who like our science predicated on hard data and experimental evidence.

    Why ‘not science’ when there is the evidence of the universe which is a kind of test? The amazingly intricate order of the universe, after one has seen one mind boggling example after another, are all tests pointing to an intelligence behind them—not some random mindless motion. In the order of ‘tests’ that can be carried out to test a hypothesis, from a weak test to a strong test, that sounds to me to be a fairly decent test, at least in the middle of that range. And when compared with the blind ‘self-contained’ universe operating by Chance it becomes an even more plausible hypothesis.

    You seem very close to agreeing in places, especially when you speak of the limits of scientific process for assessing truth. It is precisely because of those limits (it best represents what we know or think) that I reject the scientific testability of God.

    The limits in the testability show the plausibility of the God hypothesis, since we’re saying that, yes, we can test, to a point, without claiming full proof, so such observation-tests of intelligence in nature do strongly point to an intelligence behind them (just as Darwin saw)—even if we are tentative about it. So I do not see it as leading us to rejecting the testability of God—not if we include the universe’s imposing and awesome structure as being such a test. And for many, including great scientists, that observation-test has been so imposing and impressive, time and again. That pattern is what impresses me (as it did Darwin, Einstein, and others).

    It is precisely because of those limits (it best represents what we know or think) that I reject the scientific testability of God.

    That would also seem to equally apply to the rejection of the scientific testability of a blind ‘self-contained’ universe ruled by chance (which does not explain where the laws came from).

    I would say similar things of Gods non-existence. Our more ardently atheistic friends might demur, but I dont think that God is inherently more absurd, philosophically speaking, than a self-contained universe.

    Agreed, and I would perhaps go even further than you and say that a self-contained universe operating by ‘chance’ (the atheist’s golden cow) is inherently more absurd than belief in an intelligence underlying the universe and its laws. Why would the universe have laws at all? Why would it have these orderly laws that we discovered? Where did they come from? Why do things in physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy fits so incredibly well? The God hypothesis gives an intelligent answer to these questions (“there was a brain behind them, stupid”), while the atheist’s Chance would have to make many silly assumptions in order to make his ‘chance’ lead to the enormous complexities that we see (with no ‘brain’ to guide progress and development). (That was an American expression I used: I wasn’t calling you ‘stupid,’ of course.)

    Where I seem to lose you (and Im not entirely sure why) is in my assertion that science is better off heuristically sticking with a self-contained universe, leaving each of us to determine where this becomes unsatisfying and we must wax philosophical or turn our thoughts to religion.

    Why? If we assume that God is scientifically untestable then the ‘self-contained universe’ hypothesis, under wise leadership of Chance, is also scientifically untestable. What one denies the former follows for the latter as well. Why should this one untestable Chance philosophy be the sole claimant over science? That’s my bone of contention.

    The God hypothesis has been an inspiration and a guide in the work of many great scientists, like Newton and Einstein. And for your info, high energy physicists today, in string theory, are moving into domains that re-define the universe (so what’s ‘self-contained’?) in terms of 10 or 11 dimensions, 4 spacetime and 6 curled up dimensions outside our 3 space dimensions. And you have the Multi-verse theory that speaks of other universes beside this one (advocated by Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg who is himself an atheist). So it isn’t clear what ‘self-contained’ even means.

    As a mathematician, I think it is quite plausible that spatial and physical reality could be much more than what our eyes have been evolved to see so far.

  2. January 11, 2009 at 4:13 am

    To me, “scientifically testable” implies experimental controls and a rather specific methodology. I realize that not everything called science can be located so precisely (and please stop assuming that I don’t read science). But even things like superstring theory and Weinberg’s Multiverse are predicated upon high-level mathematical models. How does one “do the math” on God?

    My contention is that once we introduce over-arching concepts like “God” or “Intelligence” or even “Blind Chance” in the way that you have characterized it, we introduce something fuzzy, inchoate, and unhelpful with regards to furthering scientific knowledge, no matter how philosophically satisfying these concepts might be for those who hold them. When we reach for explanations that are not falsifiable, do not allow for experimental controls, and cannot be mathematically modeled, we’re in the realm of metaphysics, which is in the philosophy department.

    And this is all I meant by “unhelpful to scientists,” which was probably an unfortunate choice of phrase, because by it I did not mean “no self-respecting scientist would think such a thing.” I simply mean that, however meaningful belief in God might be to any particular scientist, it has no bearing on scientific process itself. Aside from apologists on either end of the spectrum, which would seem to comprise a very vocal minority, most scientists would seem to go about their work without any direct reference to their religious (or anti-religious) sentiments.

    Even Weinberg could be a theist who is simply trying to sort out what kind of universe God made. He’s not, of course, but I don’t see what the difference would be. It does make a difference, of course, if one is trying to prove a literal six-day creation or some such, but that’s a conversation that would lose my interest very, very quickly.

    Appealing to the universe in toto as evidence does not allow for controls. We cannot construct model universes of differing origins and compare them to see which most closely resembles ours. We might construct thought experiments along those lines, but both atheist polemicists and theistic apologists engage in such thought experiments (which I would not classify as “scientific testing,” btw) and conveniently claim victory.

    Incidentally, the atheist apologists with which you seem to have me confused are just as guilty of veering off into philosophy and claiming a certainty on the basis of science that does not exist.

    Contra both sides (and why only two? — this too is problematic), I don’t think science can settle this particular dispute. The atheist generally accepts nothing beyond what science can “see.” Others — most people, actually — admit to more.

    Now, with the proviso that we are not, as far as I’m concerned, dealing with the scientific testability of God at this point (you are welcome to think that we are), you do go farther than me in asserting that absurdity of an uncreated universe. Of course an uncreated universe is mind-boggling. So is an uncreated God. I’d call that one a draw.

    How did we get complexity and nice-fitting laws and all that? However they got here. Let’s call that X. Maybe X is God — but where did God come from? Why is there only one? Why not an infinite regress of God-making Gods? Maybe X is some sort of impersonal intelligence (why, for instance, must this intelligence be “a brain” or “analogous to that of man” — might it be something utterly inscrutable?). Maybe it’s blind chance. Maybe it’s some process that is utterly inconceivable. Maybe X is something we’ll know more about as time goes by, and maybe it’s a singularity of such profound magnitude that we will never know and never can know.

    I don’t pretend to be able to live without “irritably reaching” (as Keats would say) for answers to those kinds of questions. I have opinions. But I hold them tentatively and I neither expect nor claim that science has any preference for my conclusions, whatever they might be today.

  3. samuelprime
    January 12, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Thank you, as I am busy college prof so won’t be able to get back to you very soon, but wil when I get some free time.

    But just one quick comment. About your questions “where did God come from? Why is there only one?, etc., are they covered by our definition of God? You are adding additional material to the topic. I trust that you know (as you often claim that you do) that these questions beg for an additional system by which they can be answered, plus they stray from the issue at hand by diverging into another topic. Also, the first one presumes God lives under time (to ‘come from somewhere’ or to be ‘created’ by another agency, and the second assumes a notion of ‘oneness’ applied to God, which our definition of God made no reference to—i.e. is pretty neutral on. I don’t think it is useful to ask if God prefers red hats over blue hats, for example.

  4. January 12, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Being a prof myself, I understand the pressures of academic life. Please take your time.

    And please forgive me if I find your accusation — that I am adding additional material and straying from the topic — deeply ironic. As far as I’m concerned we had already abandoned the topic.

    Perhaps the big difference is that I see an additional system being required as soon as God (or some other extrinsic or supramundane agent) is invoked at all, a condition to which my questions were intended to point. You’re right that such questions are not helpful — but these kinds of questions come up, for me, as soon as we drag God (however defined) into the equation.

  5. samuelprime
    January 17, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Okay, now I can reply (after a hectically busy week).

    To me, scientifically testable implies experimental controls and a rather specific methodology.

    Of course, most of the physical sciences operate under the use of experiment (to varying degrees of confidence). When we have the capacity to conduct such experiments we do. However, there are other areas in science where such controlled experiments are not always possible—and they are still referred to as ‘science.’ For example, in evolutionary biology we cannot carry out an experiment to observe macro-evolution, the change of one species evolving into another species. By contrast, we can do direct experiments for molecular micro-evolution (under a microscope), but not for macro, yet it is still (I hope) a science. Ditto, the earth’s dynamo core, which cannot be observed and tested directly, and the cosmic egg of the big bang, to cite a few examples.

    There is much more to science and the scientific process than mere pure experimentation. (Leaving aside the fact that even experimentation in actual practice involves auxiliary assumptions, scientists have noted that there are times when the interpretation of experiment is difficult without use of some theory.) There are a number of hidden or underlying beliefs in science that are in themselves not testable and cannot be answered by experimentation. Here are some examples.

    The scientific method itself is not testable. You can’t carry out an experiment to test its validity. It was applied many times and it failed—yes, there are failures in science even with use of the scientific method—and it was applied many times with success. So which is it? Do the failures show that it is a failed method, or do the successes show it is a successful method? I say we count our blessings.

    The use of mathematics in science is not testable. In physics we use pi = 3.14159… and e = 2.71828…, etc, all the time, and yet they are irrational numbers that have no observable physical reality, and no amount of experimentation will prove that pi or e exists. Of course, they can and are used with success in science, but they in themselves are not physically testable objects. The same applies to the many mathematical assumptions physicists make, for example, in their mathematical calculations—-none of which can be subjected to experimental tests.

    Scientists believe in the existence of laws and theories, especially the grand laws, and in a unified force for the 4 known forces. This belief is untestable. There is also the untestable belief that the universe can be rationally understood and has an ordered structure. These arise from our many experiences, but cannot in themselves be tested experimentally in a lab.

    Pasteur’s experiments rule out spontaneous generation (in an oxygen atmosphere), yet (many) scientists believe that spontaneous generation, or something very much like it, occurred at some point in the earth’s past (for life to exist) since, they reason, conditions on earth were quite different from what they are today and permitted what they called a ’primordial soup’ to form where self-replicating compounds came to being from inanimate matter. That latter belief, biopoiesis, is not demonstrable since we cannot know or reproduce that original ‘soup’ as it once existed (let alone ‘doing math on it’ and doing ‘experimental controls’ on it), assuming that it did exist. We cannot go back in time to observe and see how life arose from dead matter. So here we believe in something that is not testable.

    Physicists are divided as to whether string theory is testable. Some think that one day it will be testable (its advocates), while others, like Peter Woit think it is untestable. Personally, I think it is a wonderful theory that achieved things that have not been achieved before.

    Is paleontology testable? The history of the earth’s atmosphere and its geology is far into the past, and cannot be tested directly as one would test chemicals, molecules, or bacteria in a lab. Certainly very different modes and degrees of ‘testing’ or scientific study right there—not like physics, for example.

    (and please stop assuming that I dont read science)

    Sorry, but the problem is that you don’t show it in your writing, and what I do read from you is lack of experience with the subject. How come I’m the one coming up with the scientific examples? (Perhaps this area is not close to your field of expertise.)

    But even things like superstring theory and Weinbergs Multiverse are predicated upon high-level mathematical models. How does one do the math on God?

    We do math ‘on God’ by doing it on His creation. The mathematical laws we discover reveal His intelligence in creation, what He built into its mechanisms. All the mathematical intelligence we learn reflects His brain. As the great physicist Paul Dirac noted, “God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world.” Galileo said “Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe.” Evidently those greats saw the intelligence of God thru the mathematics, as well as thru their experiments.

    My contention is that once we introduce over-arching concepts like God or Intelligence or even Blind Chance in the way that you have characterized it, we introduce something fuzzy, inchoate, and unhelpful with regards to furthering scientific knowledge, no matter how philosophically satisfying these concepts might be for those who hold them.

    Over-arching concepts, ha? Did you ever stop to think about the other concepts in science would be ‘over-arching’? Can you give examples? I’m afraid that even science can’t run away from such concepts. Relativity and quantum theory are replete with them, even though their concepts are so confusing and even meaningless to the average person (to whom relativity and QT violate common sense). Also, isn’t the history of science replete with fuzzy concepts? Do you think scientific concepts come to us served on a silver platter, all perfectly formed when initially introduced? Not at all. Even when they have been relatively well-formed, concepts can still be quite fuzzy and dazzling to the mind. Example? Try quantum mechanics. Experts agree that although it is an extremely successful theory (I took two courses on it), its concepts are fuzzy and they don’t understand it well, and sometimes it even seems counter-intuitive. One physicist said of quantum theory that (to quote him):

    “the conceptual basis of the theory is still somewhat obscure. I myself do not properly understand what it is that quantum theory tells us about the nature of the physical world, and by saying this I mean to imply that I do not think anybody else understands it either, though there are respectable scientists who write with confidence on the subject.”

    (See page 107 of Ian Lawrie, A Unified Grand Tour of Theoretical Physics, 2nd ed, 2002.)

    Fuzziness is sometimes in the nature of our human abilities to structure and understand nature. In fact, fuzziness is an inherent feature of probabilistic and statistical understanding of phenomenon (like in statistical mechanics and thermodynamics). For example, in quantum theory the wavefunction of an electron represents a probabilistic phase amplitude, so you don’t know where it is exactly but only probabilistically because the electron is viewed as a fuzzy kind of ‘localized’ wave. So it looks fuzzy from that point of view since you can’t pinpoint it (as you would a point particle in Newtonian physics which seems more clear in its concepts) nor can you pin point its momentum. Science has concepts that are not very clear at times (not infinitely clear). That’s not a bad thing.

    One notable thing about ‘blind chance’ is that a scientist really cannot believe in it because he/she will have to assume certain laws, rules, or some structure in the process in order that ‘chance’ process will lead to a more complex object. So, in actual practice they are assuming that some sort of intelligence is built into the system (namely the laws or rules that they base their explanations on). For example, a system of gas particles come together to form the more complex object called a star. Why? Because of laws of gravity that bind them, the laws of chemistry and nuclear interaction of the atoms that lead to thermonuclear fusion, leading to the more complex atoms. The laws were needed, a priori, in order to lead to the next complex phase. Again, intelligence was in existence in the form of those laws so as to lead to the more complex objects—not mere pure ‘chance.’ They use words such as ‘chance’ and ‘randomness’—more fuzzy concepts also—as if they are real agents but in fact the laws that they use (the ‘brain’ behind their work) does the work for them.

    I simply mean that, however meaningful belief in God might be to any particular scientist, it has no bearing on scientific process itself.

    You would not have said so if you had read Newton and Einstein. Newton endeavored to study nature in order to understand God, and in Book III of his Principia he devoted several considerations on God related and his theories. As Paul Davies noted, “Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way.”

    Einstein said he wanted to know how God created the universe and whether God had any choice in the process (or whether God in fact plays dice). Further, if it there is no bearing, why did the same thought (of God’s existence from nature’s repeated complexity) press upon them in such a constant and consistent manner, including eminent scientists in different fields? It is in fact because of the depths that these great scientists have delved into their subjects that their common suspicion of an intelligence behind these processes is what is striking. (And we’re talking about leaders and creators of scientific fields, like Newton, Darwin, and Einstein.) Therefore, in light of these there is indeed a strong bearing because they have connected their work with the hypothesis of such an intelligent God, or some Thinker behind the universe (if that’s a better name).

    Aside from apologists on either end of the spectrum, which would seem to comprise a very vocal minority, most scientists would seem to go about their work without any direct reference to their religious (or anti-religious) sentiments.

    I would say the two groups are not mutually exclusive. Look at religious scientists writing about science (with different persuasions), and atheist scientists (like Richard Dawkins) who try to debunk God. Einstein said “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” He saw a connection.

    It does make a difference, of course, if one is trying to prove a literal six-day creation or some such, but thats a conversation that would lose my interest very, very quickly.

    It already lost my interest! Even when I was a fundamentalist Christian, more than two decades ago, I never believed in a 6-day creation nor in the inerrancy of the Bible.

    Appealing to the universe in toto as evidence does not allow for controls. We cannot construct model universes of differing origins and compare them to see which most closely resembles ours.

    It is not merely looking at the universe in its entirety but in terms of its highly complex and well thought-out laws, from the atom, to the cell, to the DNA, to man, to all levels. Example after example, all under different conditions, reveal remarkable intelligence (to the minds of many great scientists). That’s what struck them (the scientists I mentioned), and what still strikes me. It’s got that WOW factor.

    We might construct thought experiments along those lines, but both atheist polemicists and theistic apologists engage in such thought experiments (which I would not classify as scientific testing, btw) and conveniently claim victory.

    Einstein used thought experiments all the time. He used them in his construction of his theory of relativity—like his thought experiment of the free falling elevator having zero gravity which lead him to the Principle of Equivalence. (The power of his imagination came in handy.) He even used thought experiments to rebuttal advocates of quantum theory, and which helped shape the formulation of the theory (because he challenged its proponents). Quantum theory itself used thought experiments, and even use it to explain and how we are to think of measurement of very small objects. For example, the double slit experiment, where, if you don’t observe the electrons you get a certain kind of measurement, while if you do observe the electrons you get another measurement (even if it appears to be the same situation). That is, your observation affects the outcome of the measurement.

    As for ‘victory,’ I would feel very small minded if that was my real goal. I would much rather lose an argument if it meant gaining insight and understanding.

    Incidentally, the atheist apologists with which you seem to have me confused are just as guilty of veering off into philosophy and claiming a certainty on the basis of science that does not exist.

    I don’t think that it is entirely philosophy or metaphysics since both the atheist and non-atheist are dealing with the same (scientific) realities in the same universe, and attempting to show that those realities and facts can be best explained, or are best interpreted, in terms of their respective fundamental hypotheses regarding whether a higher intelligence creator exists, or does not exist (and that Chance was smart enough to come up with so many trillions of consecutive coincidences in a row leading to man in the short span of a few billion years).

    It is not wrong to include philosophy at times in the discussion. After all, science itself does rest on a philosophical foundation based on some methodologies, criteria, presuppositions, modes of reasoning, and abstract mathematics, which, in themselves, cannot be proved (but taken as axiomatic). Actually, if memory does not fail me, Albert Einstein himself made note of that point in his book Ideas and Opinions. (I do remember him referring to the metaphysics behind science.)

    Contra both sides (and why only two? this too is problematic), I dont think science can settle this particular dispute. The atheist generally accepts nothing beyond what science can see. Others most people, actually admit to more.

    I agree that we don’t have enough to settle it conclusively. The two sides will continue. (Why two? Perhaps two in the present course of the discussion—but there are certainly many other views that can be entertained. Other discussions, though, could be burdened by many other issues, like good and evil, why this, why that, which we have abstained from in this discussion, and for good reason, focusing only on our minimal definition of ‘God’ as we defined it without adding more distracting features.)

    Of course an uncreated universe is mind-boggling. So is an uncreated God. Id call that one a draw.

    The reason it is not a draw is due to the following asymmetry. From what we know so far, the universe did have a beginning. So at one point it came into being, and with a bang from an immensely small singularity. (This means that all the huge amount of matter in the universe was crammed in a space smaller than an atom!) This means that there was also a beginning to time itself, not just space and matter. As the physicist would say, spacetime was born. Thus, it is plausible that space, matter, and time, were brought into being with an intelligence built into it (so that it develops, or unfolds, the intricate laws that we discover). However, in the case of God, we do not know that He (She or It) has had a beginning, nor do we know that God is under the influence of a temporal sphere of existence in order to be created. This is especially the case because time, as we know it, is part of our universe and we cannot say it applies to anything external to the universe. So that’s where the asymmetry of the two cases lies. Even if I grant you the assumption that God was created by a yet higher intelligence, then that does not mean God did not create this universe (or others like it). A series such as “universe created by God-1, who was created by God-2, who was created by God-3, etc” is not ruled out by our God hypothesis.

    Being a prof myself, I understand the pressures of academic life.

    Thanks for understanding. Professor of what?

    And please forgive me if I find your accusation that I am adding additional material and straying from the topic deeply ironic.

    You took it the wrong way, I did not intend it as an accusation. Also, even if I had inadvertently added extraneous material that is irrelevant, wouldn’t it be better if you had pointed that out to me instead of exacerbating the issue with more? Your question “where did God come from?” requires us to make more assumptions than our definition of God warrants.

    As far as Im concerned we had already abandoned the topic.

    No, we are still talking about ‘testability’ of God, though now we clarified a number of matter related to it, like:

    (1) there are different levels and degrees of testability and not all tests are equivalent,

    (2) science rests on observations and theory, not just on repeatable and controlled experiments,

    (3) there are examples from science that I cited to shed light on the processes in science, that it does contain fuzzy notions as well as untestable assumptions,

    (4) that God (as defined) is testable to the extent that so many intelligent processes have been observed in nature, the laws that are built into them, from various fields, all of which betray His existence—or betray the existence of Something quite Intelligent, as opposed to something stupid that acts randomly without any rules or guide.

    (5) the observation that great scientists (founders in their fields) have noted, believed, or suspected the existence of a intelligence underneath their studies.

    All these matters are part and parcel of the discussion. You say God is not testable—and I agree not directly testable like you would test and control chemicals in a lab, but it is possible to indirectly test God, or an intelligence, thru the intelligence perceived order and laws built into creation. The atheist hypothesis does not explain where these laws built into nature come from. They simply assume them without being able to account for them.

    Perhaps the big difference is that I see an additional system being required as soon as God (or some other extrinsic or supramundane agent) is invoked at all, a condition to which my questions were intended to point. Youre right that such questions are not helpful but these kinds of questions come up, for me, as soon as we drag God (however defined) into the equation.

    Chance and randomness are also additional systems, which reflects a philosophy in itself. To the extend that God may be construed as being untestable, so are Chance and randomness.

    Those other questions you asked (“where did God come from?” etc) come up in other discussions (depending on topic), but in the context of our discussion they should not have because it is probably clear that they cannot be answered from our minimalist definition of God (namely, just an intelligence creating the universe)—without making more assumptions on the nature of that God. Logically, from that definition alone, and without adding any more ingredients or assumptions, those questions become meaningless since they go out of the system. So you can’t answer a meaningless question. We did not define the notions underlying ‘come from’ or ‘one’ in order for the questions that presume them to make sense.

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