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DETECTING TRUTH

Do you REALLY want to know the truth?

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Feedback about this site can be sent to DetectingTruth@gmail.com

About this site

The purpose of this website is to host my research notes into the following question:

Does God exist?

Note: Almost all of my study of God is related to the Christian God.

I've done a lot of reading on this topic (see Reading List) and I must acknowledge that the assertion God exists or God doesn't exist falls into a category of unfalsifiable assertions based on current knowledge. So, what remains is the accumulation and evaluation of the evidence supporting each assertion and deciding which one is most plausible. The conclusion you will make, I assert, will be heavily influenced by your accumulated experience, cultural influences, religious training, education, mental health and other influences since your birth. In other words, your conclusion will, most likely, NOT be based on the unbiased evaluation of the evidence. It is only through extensively exploring both sides of an issue with an open mind that dogmatic positions have a chance of releasing their hold on the believer.

Evidence for "God exists" falls into these general categories (not a complete list):

  • Religious Philosophy (thought exercises)
  • Personal Experience (which has led to the many religious documents in existence)
  • Mysticism (i.e. experience IS reality)

Evidence for "God doesn't exist" is, essentially, the lack of the kind of evidence or data that is routinely used in science, technology, mathematics, forensics, and other technical domains (I'll take the liberty to lump these all together as science). It should be noted that the above categories of evidence for "God exists" are generally not used or accepted in the day to day practice of science. This is the sort of information that can be tested and verified by anyone with the skills and tools necessary to setup and perform the test. It is also the sort of information that can be used to build a hydrogen bomb, a cell phone, a space station, a Formula 1 race car, etc. This is the sort of information that every human being (every organism) that exists on Earth uses to survive and thrive each and every day.

I will also acknowledge that, even if God doesn't exist, there still may be a need for "Religion" due to 1) our human biological condition of being aware of our individual existence and eventual demise, 2) our social needs which lead to "grouping" together with others of like mind, kinship, culture, etc.

Another observation worth noting is that some concepts are just difficult to understand and take a lot of study to comprehend. For example, I took four Calculus classes during my Engineering studies in college. It was difficult for me to understand the concepts. However, at some point during those classes, the ah-ha moment happened and it suddenly made sense. Without putting in the time and effort to study Calculus, I would not be able to say I understand it. My point is that, even with this topic, much study is required to grasp the arguments for either position.

Disclaimer

If you really want to go down this path, then be prepared to have your belief system challenged whether you believe or do not believe God exists. To some degree, this path is a philosophical study.

The authors of Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings, Louis Pojman and James Fieser explain this succinctly.

Philosophy is the love of wisdom (from the Greek philos, "love," and sophia, "wisdom"). It is the contemplation or study of the most important questions in existence, with the end of promoting illumination and understanding, a vision of the whole. It uses reason, sense perception, the imagination, and intuitions in its activities of clarifying the concepts and analyzing and constructing arguments and theories as possible answers to these perennial questions. It is revolutionary because its deliverances often disturb our common sense or our received tradition. Philosophy usually goes against the stream or the majority, since the majority opinion is often a composite of past intellectual struggles or "useful" biases. There is often deeper truth, better and new evidence that disturbs the status quo and that forces us to revise or reject some of our beliefs. This experience can be as painful as it is exciting.

The pain may lead us to give up philosophical inquiry, and a great deal of emotional health may be required in order to persevere in this pursuit. We may retreat into unreason and obey the commandment of Ignorance. "Think not, lest thou be confounded!" Truth (or what we seem justified in believing) may not always be edifying, but in the end the philosopher's faith is that Truth is good and worth pursuing for its own sake, and for its secondary benefits. The intelligent inquiry that philosophy promotes is liberating, freeing us from prejudice, self-deceptive notions, and half truths. As Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) put it:

The [person] who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason... [W]hile diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, [philosophy] greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never traveled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive the sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar light.[1]

My Credentials

Education

My Reading List

Reading List

Definitions

Definitions

Summary of Arguments based on Religious Philosophy

The objective of this section is to present the most common religious philosophical arguments used to argue FOR or AGAINST God. This is a rich topic and only a short list is provided below.

This section is based on “Introduction of Philosophy, 4th edition, Louis P. Pojman & James Fieser, Part III.” I highly recommend that you obtain this book or another like it and read the various essays related to religious philosophy. It is fascinating.

The first four arguments are FOR God’s existence and the agnostic/atheist base their cases on absence of evidence to support these arguments. The existence of evil, says the agnostic/atheist, is an argument for God’s non-existence.

Cosmological Argument for God (a posteriori)

All cosmological arguments contain these basic assumptions:

  1. The universe exists
  2. Something outside the universe is required to explain the existence of the universe.
    1. The universe is contingent, depending on something outside the universe for its existence.
  3. God is such a being

A version of the cosmological argument is called the “first-cause argument.”

  1. Everything in the universe has a cause.
  2. An infinite regression is impossible. The series of causes and effects cannot go on indefinitely but must have a beginning.
  3. So there must be a first cause (outside the universe) capable of producing everything besides itself (which is not produced, but a necessary being).
  4. Such a being must be an infinite, necessary being; that is, God.

St. Thomas Aquinas is most famous for making this argument. This argument can be challenged at every point. For examples, see writings by Bertrand Russell and David Hume.

Teleological Argument for God (a posteriori)

All Teleological arguments contains these basic assumptions:

  1. The design manifested in the world shows the hand of a grand designer.
  2. The world shows intelligent purpose or order and there must be a divine intelligence, a supreme designer to account for the observed or perceived intelligent purpose or order.

A good example of this argument can be found in William Paley’s Natural Theology “watch” argument. This argument has been refuted, most famously, by David Hume as well as Charles Darwin in Origin of Species and his theory of “variation and natural selection.”

Ontological Argument for God (a priori)

This argument was first established by Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, in the eleventh century. It raises philosophical problems such as (1) whether existence is a property and (2) whether the notion of necessary existence is intelligible. The argument that follows may be treated as a reduction ad absurdum argument. That is, it begins with a supposition (S) that is contradictory to what one desires to prove and then goes about showing that (S) together with other certain or self-evident assumptions (A-1 and A-2) yields a contradiction, which in turn demonstrates that the contradictory of (S) must be true. Anselm’s argument goes like this:

  1. Suppose that the greatest conceivable being (GCB) exists in the mind alone (and not in reality). (S)
  2. Existence in reality is greater than existence in the mind alone. (A-1)
  3. We can conceive of a GCB that exists in reality as well as in the mind. (A-2)
  4. Therefore, there is a being that is greater than the GCB. (from 1, 2, & 3)
  5. But this is impossible, for it is a contradiction.
  6. Therefore, it is false that GCB exists in the mind alone and not in reality (from 1 & 5). So a GCB must exist in reality as well as in the mind. This being is, per definition, God.

A contemporary of Anselm, Gaunilo, set forth the first objection to this argument claiming this argument could be made for the greatest conceivable “anything” such as an island.

Argument from Religious Experience for God (a posteriori)

This argument appeals to mystical experiences and claims of extraordinary revelation as evidence for God’s existence. The problem with religious experiences is that they are private. William James, F. C. Copleston, C. D Broad claim that personal experience is valid evidence for God’s existence.

Bertrand Russell and Sigmund Freud made cases against personal experience as proof of God’s existence.

Argument from Evil for God (a posteriori)

The theist argues:

  1. God is all-powerful (including omniscient).
  2. God is perfectly good.
  3. But, Evil exists.

This can be perceived as a paradox or, worse, a contradiction.

The opposing argument is:

  1. If God (an all-powerful, omniscient, omnibenevolent being) existed, there would be no (or no unnecessary) evil in the world.
  2. There is evil (or unnecessary evil) in the world.
  3. Therefore, God does not exist

The writings of Voltaire, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Bruce Russell and Richard Swinburne are examples that explore both sides of this argument.

Evolution vs Creationism

The objective of this section is to present the scientific case for evolution as the only currently plausible scientific theory that explains the existence of life on Earth and that Scientific Creationism and its cousin, Intelligent Design, are not based on science but, instead, religion. The United States legal system has repeatedly supported this conclusion.

The debate regarding creationism vs evolution has been going on since Darwin published his groundbreaking "On the Origin of Species." The debate has made its way through the courts a number of times; from the Scopes trial in 1925 to more recent cases such as the 2004 case in Dover, Pennsylvania in Kitzmiller v. Dover area School Board (see NOVA video: Judgement Day - Intelligent Design on Trial). Currently, due to the establishment clause in the constitution, religion can't be taught in public schools. Intelligent Design was determined, in the Dover case, to be repackaged creationism (religion) and can't be legally taught in public schools.

The Dover case is fascinating because of the intense scrutiny of the best argument for "special creation", intelligent design, as well as evolution, by the best intellectual experts on both sides. It was ruled that intelligent design is not based on science and it's key claim regarding irreducible complexity was dismantled by the plaintiffs side. It was also determined that intelligent design is repackaged creationism in order to skirt around the establishment clause of the constitution.

Other key court cases affecting the teaching of Creationism in state public schools:

To understand legal issues involving the creation and evolution controversy, one must first understand the three clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Religion Clause states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The Free Speech Clause states, "or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The third clause proclaims "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." All of the legal decisions generated by the creation and evolution controversy have been decided based on interpretation of the Religion and Free Speech clauses of the First Amendment.

The Establishment and Fee Exercise clauses, taken together, mean that public institutions have to be religiously neutral.

Laws have been judged for Establishment Clause constitutionality by applying a three part test devised in a 1971 Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman. The Lemon test requires that a bill or practice must have a secular rather than a religious purpose; it must not have an effect that either promotes or inhibits religion, and it must not create undue entanglement between government and religion. Failure on any of three "prongs" of Lemon means the bill is unconstitutional. --- Eugenie C. Scott - Evolution vs. Creationism Ch. 9

Thus, evolution remains intact as the only science based theory that explains the history and diversity of life on Earth. It should be noted that even evolution has not yet explained the actual process of how that first replicating cell/organism came into existence. It does explain how the subsequent diversity of life came into existence.

If you really want to learn more about evolution, I recommend actually reading Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" and another book that explains it more succinctly, such as Richard Dawkins "The Blind Watchmaker." Warning: Dawkins is an excellent teacher of complex subject matter, but he can be very disrespectful of views opposing evolution. Additionally, reading a book on basic genetics would provide the foundation for some of the mechanisms of evolution.

It should also be noted that the Catholic church, via various proclamations by various Popes, have accepted evolution as a means by which God created man's physical body. This is called "Theistic Evolution." However, the Catholic position also adds that God alone created and infused man with his soul.

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The bulk of this section is found on the following page and is primarily a summary of the evolution vs creationism debate as laid down by Eugenia C. Scott in her book Evolution VS Creationism.

Evolution vs Creationism

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Age of the Earth

The objective of this section is to demonstrate the overwhelming scientific evidence that the earth is old or ancient rather then the 6,000 to 10,000 years old asserted by Christian creationists. To claim the Earth is young in the face of this overwhelming scientific evidence reminds me of the Catholic Church dragging Galileo before the court because he asserted that the Earth is not the center of the universe (which is no longer contested by Christian Church).

See Rational Wiki for the explanation of each of the following subjects.

The data to support ages of the earth from > 10,00 years to > 1,000,000,000 years

  • > 10,000 years
    • Dendrochronology
    • Human Y-chromosome ancestry
    • Oxidizable Carbon Ratio dating
    • Rock varnish
    • Thermoluminescence dating
  • > 100,000 years
    • Coral
    • Fission track dating
    • Ice layering
    • Lack of DNA in fossils
    • Permafrost
    • Weathering rinds
  • > 1,000,000 years
    • Amino Acid racemization
    • Baptistina asteroid family
    • Continental drift
    • Cosmogenic nuclide dating
    • Erosion
    • Geomagnetic reversals
    • Impact craters
    • Iron-manganese nodules
    • Length of the prehistoric day
    • Naica megacrystals
    • Nitrogen in diamonds
    • Petrified wood
    • Relativistic jets
    • Sedimentary varves
    • Stalactites
    • Space weathering
  • > 1,000,000,000 years
    • Distant starlight
    • Helioseismology
    • Lunar retreat
    • Radioactive decay

Christianity and Mythology

The objective of this section is to point out that almost all human cultures have myths about common themes that are also found in Christianity such as creation, flood, virgin birth and afterlife myths. Many of these myths pre-date Christianity or even the Jewish culture. So what is more plausible; 1) the Christian myths are true and all others are false or 2) the Christian myths are just another set of cultural myths (Jewish in this case) among the myriad of other myths spanning most human cultures.

  1. Myth – a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind assumed their present form. Wikipedia - Mythology
    1. Can also refer to a traditional story
    2. Ideology in narrative form
    3. Transmitted to convey religious or idealized experience, to establish behavioral models, and to teach
    4. As sacred stories, myths are often endorsed by rulers and priests and closely linked to religion or spirituality
    5. A myth is usually regarded as a true account of the remote past
    6. Many societies have two categories of traditional narrative, “true stories” or myths, and “false stories” or fables
    7. Creation myths generally take place in a primordial age, when the world had not yet achieved is current form, and explain how the world gained its current form and how customs, institutions and taboos were established
      1. Many cultures have a creation myth
    8. Closely related to myth are legend and folklore
    9. When a myth loses its status as part of a religious system, it often takes on traits more typical of folktales, with its formally divine characters reinterpreted as human heroes, giants, or fairies
  2. Origins of Myth
    1. Euhemerism
      1. Distorted accounts of real historical events. Storytellers repeatedly elaborated upon historical accounts until the figures in those accounts gained the status of gods.
    2. Allegory
      1. Myths began as allegories for natural phenomena. Apollo represents the sun; Poseidon represents water, etc.
        1. Personification
      2. Of inanimate objects and forces. Ancients worshiped natural phenomena such as fire and air, gradually coming to describe them as gods.
        1. Myth-ritual theory
      3. The existence of myth is tied to ritual. Myths arose to explain rituals.
  3. Functions of Myth
    1. Establish models of behavior and religious experience
      1. Reproduce conditions of the mythical age
    2. Render a cosmology – an image of the universe for the individual
    3. Support the current social order, to integrate the individual organically with his group
      1. Political interpretation of myths to the advantage of one group within a society or one society within a group of nations
    4. Initiate the individual into the order of realities of his own psyche
  4. Creation Myths
    1. “A creation myth (or creation story) is a cultural, traditional or religious myth which describes the earliest beginnings of the present world. Creation myths are the most common form of myth, usually developing first in oral traditions, and are found throughout human culture. A creation myth is usually regarded by those who subscribe to it as conveying profound truths, although not necessarily in a historical or literal sense. They are commonly, although not always, considered cosmogonical myths—that is they describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness.” -- (Wikipedia)
      1. List of Creation Myths
      2. List of Creation Myths - Wikipedia
  5. Virgin/Miraculous Birth Myths
    1. A study of ancient literature discloses the fact that myths of virgin births were part of many -- if not all -- of the surrounding pagan religions in the place where, and at the time when, Christianity arose.
      1. List of Virgin or Miraculous Birth Myths
      2. List of Miraculous Births - Wikipedia
  6. Flood Myths
    1. A flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. -- Wikipedia
    2. Many human cultures lived in areas that were prone to periodic severe floods. To this day, many regions of the Earth are still prone of severe floods. Some of these floods were likely so severe they may have seemed to be global to the ancient culture, however, this is not likely based on current scientific knowledge.
      1. List of Flood Myths - Wikipedia
  7. Afterlife Myths
    1. In philosophy, religion, mythology, and fiction, the afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the Hereafter) is the concept of a realm, or the realm itself (whether physical or transcendental), in which an essential part of an individual's identity or consciousness continues to exist after the death of the body in the individual's lifetime. - Wikipedia
      1. List of Afterlife Myths - Wikipedia

Christianity and Common Religious Practices

The objective of this section is to point out that "religion" and its common practices have been around since the dawn of man. It started with folk or indigenous religions (which still exist) and evolved to worldwide religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. There are also many recently founded religions such as Church of the Latter Day Saints, Scientology, etc. See Wikipedia - Religion for more details.

The book "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong is a good overview of the origin of the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam an Judaism.

There are literally thousands of religions around the world, many claiming to represent the "One True God." So which one, if any, is true?

Questions to think about:

  1. If one true God does exist, which one is it?
  2. If one true God does exist, why has God not revealed itself to ALL human cultures and instituted a common belief system and common religious practices?

Following is a list of practices that can be found in almost all religions. Not all religions practice all of these, but the main point is that there are many common practices across all religions. The theologies, histories, rituals, etc., may be unique to each culture, but the religious frameworks are similar.

  1. Believe in one or more God(s)
  2. Sacred texts or history
  3. Religious laws or lifestyles
  4. Festivals
  5. Feasts
  6. Rituals
  7. Matrimonial services
  8. Funeral services
  9. Prayer and meditation
  10. Personal God: Prayed to the god(s) for personal intervention
  11. The God(s) were located in the sky
    1. os 8:20 (ESV) “So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven …”
  12. Concept of Hell
    1. Plato talks about hell in The Republic, Book 2.7 (4th century BC)
    2. Apuleius, Metamorphosis Ch 11 – talks about hell ~ 200 AD.
  13. The God(s) had a son and sent him to the earth
  14. Built temples to worship their god
  15. Song and Dance during worship
  16. Confession of sins
  17. Gods concerned themselves with earthly society
  18. Gods were used as authority by rulers to go to war or commit other heinous acts
  19. Gods had intelligence and will
  20. Gods either aided or opposed man’s plans and efforts
  21. Gods rewarded men for fidelity and virtue and punished them for impiety and sin
  22. Creation myths to explain how humans originated
  23. Virgin birth myths to give the God(s) superhuman origin
  24. Miracles attributed to the God(s)
  25. Sacrifices to please the God(s)
  26. Priests to administer/interpret religious framework
  27. God(s) have eternal life and you can too
  28. Prophesies (pagans called them oracles)
  29. Notion of good and evil (see Egyptian Book of the Dead, chapter 125)
  30. Slaves
  31. Visions/Dreams (messages sent by God)
  32. Daemons
  33. Salvation
  34. Baptism
  35. Soul
  36. Angels
  37. Sages, Necromancers, Witches, etc.

More on Christianity and Common Religious Practices

Thought Provokers

"The Garden of Eden is supposed to be a literal place somewhere in the world guarded by a flaming sword. If the Garden of Eden with its talking snake, magical fruit and flaming sword doesn’t literally exist then there was no reason for Jesus to literally die on the cross. Yet the entire world has been explored and observed by satellite, and no Garden of Eden or flaming swords exist. The whole story was mythology." -- WiseSloth.wordpress.com - 10 scriptures that reveal the Bible is mythology

"Notice also that the story of the Garden of Eden was supposed to be the first thing that ever happened. Yet there’s a sword there. It’s more likely that humans invented swords in the Bronze Era and included their invention in their creation myth than it is that God created the first sword." -- WiseSloth.wordpress.com - 10 scriptures that reveal the Bible is mythology

UNDER CONSTRUCTION - MANY MORE SECTIONS PLANNED

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References

  1. Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912), 156 f