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Why arguments cannot prove God

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Why arguments cannot prove God
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LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2995Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Why arguments cannot prove God

Philosophers such as William Lane Craig often seem content to believe that logical arguments are enough to fulfil the evidential burden of proof for God's existence. This could never be the case however, for reasons that are best explained with an analogy:

There is quite a reasonable argument that says, in order for everything we know about the behaviour of matter and to make sense of particle physics there must be a particle with the properties attributed to the Higgs boson. This seems sound enough, but it is not enough to prove that the particle does in fact exist. Scientists at CERN didn't hear this and turn off their particle accelerators in satisfied contentment that their goal had been achieved. Why is this so? Because a logical argument of this kind cannot be enough to prove the existence of the particle. This is because it makes the assumption that everything we know about particle physics is correct - when in actual fact it might not be.

The same goes for arguments like the Kalam cosmological argument - even if all the logic was sound, it still makes the assumption that the universe behaves in a particular way - which may turn out to be false. You'd still need something more on top of the argument to demonstrate it's validity - just as the argument for the Higgs boson needs something more before it is considered proven.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but I felt like rambling. Feel free to pick out the flaws in my argument, or express your agreement, or whatever takes your fancy...

Edited to correct a spelling error
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Last edited by Laurens on Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:02 pm
nudger1964Posts: 185Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:02 pm

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

its the assumptions that are the problem with the logic.
its ok to make a logical argument using an assumption if you can demonstrate either with the following argument or seperate arguments that the assumption was true in the first place.
not being much of an expert on logic, it looked to me like to have a logic argument for the higgs boson would be making lots of assumptions you would need to demonstrate true, and that would require a lot of math...which is pretty much what happened so far as i thought.
Sun Apr 01, 2012 10:30 pm
SirYeenPosts: 163Joined: Sun May 02, 2010 9:28 am Gender: Male

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

Well you don't need to prove the existence of god to be a believer I guess, you need to prove that the likelihood of your god existing must be larger than 50% is what I'd say. As it stands however I haven't seen anything that comes close and don't know how you'd do that. I guess that allowing for inaccuracy brings along allot of other problems and methodology that makes it even harder. Or am I just rambling again ?
We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. - Charles Darwin
Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:06 am
Mauricio DuqueUser avatarPosts: 25Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2011 7:44 pmLocation: Campinas , estado de São Paulo, Brasil Gender: Male

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

SirYeen wrote:Well you don't need to prove the existence of god to be a believer I guess, you need to prove that the likelihood of your god existing must be larger than 50% is what I'd say. As it stands however I haven't seen anything that comes close and don't know how you'd do that. I guess that allowing for inaccuracy brings along allot of other problems and methodology that makes it even harder. Or am I just rambling again ?


Well, the problem with thats is that the believer, often make a lot of other assumptions like: "my god is imaterial, its outside of time, its not bound to the lawn of physics" ; and the big problem is even if your argument make sense internaly, that dosent mean it exists.

A good point i often make is, change the word "god", for "unknow particle", and thats it, a unknow particle just created the universe, or change "god" for "mysterious energy"...so on.

Like i always says, its too easy to say stuff, but iam still expecting for some evidence of this so called god.
No human is perfect, so everyone should think:

"Iam wrong, and if so, how i would discover that?"

But not everyone does that...

Meu canal no youtube
Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:16 pm
nemesissUser avatarPosts: 1259Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2009 7:29 pm

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

recently i came to a conclusion on the argument of possiblity that theologians love to use:

"is it possible that (a) god can exist?"

we all know the true answer, which off course is abused for their own propagenda, because we care about honesty.

given that that are an infinite amount of possibilities and given the size of the (known) universe and how little has been explored thoroughly, the only honest answer is: yes.

but here is the catch, which they never give you time to address: that which is possible, isn't per se true.

to illustrate this, i will use a certain mathmatical problem: zero multiplied by infinity

1. any number multiplied by zero equals: zero
2. any number multiplied by infinity equals: infinity

problem: what happens when you multiply zero with infinity?
the answer: zero multiplied by infinity equals: UNKNOWN

so how does this math problem address the whole god argument?
let's say infinity represents the concept of god, ANY god will suffice.
how much (direct) evidence is their for that god? in every god scenario : it's nothing, zilch, nada aka ZERO.
they may claim they have evidence, but it doesn't proof their god's existance.

a great example are the 10 plagues.
through scientific enquiry, when can explain how they happen and that they do not require miracles to happen.
does this explain their god? no.
Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:16 pm
devilsadvocateUser avatarPosts: 246Joined: Sun Aug 08, 2010 8:28 pm

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

The same goes for arguments like the Kalam cosmological argument - even if all the logic was sound, it still makes the assumption that the universe behaves in a particular way - which may turn out to be false. You'd still need something more on top of the argument to demonstrate it's validity - just as the argument for the Higgs boson needs something more before it is considered proven.


I hope you don't mind me being this compulsive, but you got the terms wrong way around. An argument is valid if it has the correct logical form, and sound when the premises are also true.

Otherwise, I get what you're saying and just want to expand my own thoughts on it a bit. Usually the truthfulness of the premises are based on empirical and scientific principles, like the Kalam argument's premises "whatever that begins to exist has a cause" and "universe began to exist". While especially the first of them can get support from purely philosophical and metaphysical considerations (and common sense, really), both claims are supported by empirical observation, or so it would seem. I don't want to throw out logic completely myself, I do in fact believe that when the premises are true and relevant, the conclusion does hold as long as the logic is valid. The tricky part is spotting irrelevant premises or hidden assumptions in the argument. This, I think, is what goes wrong in the temporal cosmological argument.The premises are indeed true (or true in so far as we know), but the first one does not actually support the conclusion.

Our normal concept and our observations of causality have at least three universal prerequisites:
Time, the effect is always after the cause.
Matter, there is already something that gets modified by the cause.
Extension, there is a "space" or "room" where all this can take place.

Since all three are considered to have begun with universe (and it wouldn't make any sense to say that matter, space and time existed before the universe), our observations on how causality operates gives no support to the conclusion of the argument.


Well you don't need to prove the existence of god to be a believer I guess, you need to prove that the likelihood of your god existing must be larger than 50% is what I'd say.


Isn't there a possibility to believe that god exists.. say by 70% probability? If there was a dice with 4 sides of 1's and 2 sides 2's, I wouldn't think it's more rational to believe it'll land on 1 than to believe it'll land on 1 with 2/3 probability. I don't see there's any reason to commit oneself to 100% belief when you can proportion your belief to the probability.

Mauricio,

I really like that. It points out the fact that just by uttering words, you aren't necessarily explaining anything, but giving an appearance of an explanation. Like how the chemists of the old days explained opiums effect on sleep by saying the substance has a "soporific effect" or biologists saying that living things are animate because they possess "life force".
Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny.
Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:32 pm
Mauricio DuqueUser avatarPosts: 25Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2011 7:44 pmLocation: Campinas , estado de São Paulo, Brasil Gender: Male

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

devilsadvocate wrote: "whatever that begins to exist has a cause" and "universe began to exist".


I have a big problem with that argument, because when someone say that, they are saying that are things that can exist without a begining...but that is even possible?

Even if something come to exist without any cause, it would still have a begining, and if one thing can come to exist without a begining because its outside of time, or it came "before" time, then anything outside of time could exist without a begining or a cause, not only a god...and in the end of it, iam still waiting the evidence that led then to that argument...they couldnt just made that up............right? XD
No human is perfect, so everyone should think:

"Iam wrong, and if so, how i would discover that?"

But not everyone does that...

Meu canal no youtube
Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:04 pm
CosmicJoghurtPodcasterUser avatarPosts: 809Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:59 pm Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

nudger1964 wrote:its the assumptions that are the problem with the logic.
its ok to make a logical argument using an assumption if you can demonstrate either with the following argument or seperate arguments that the assumption was true in the first place.
not being much of an expert on logic, it looked to me like to have a logic argument for the higgs boson would be making lots of assumptions you would need to demonstrate true, and that would require a lot of math...which is pretty much what happened so far as i thought.



You can't use an assumption as a premise for an argument, and then use the conclusion to prove that premise. That's called circular logic ;)
Perception of reality results in interpretation of reality which results in a deformation of reality.
Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:14 pm
boswellnimrodPosts: 5Joined: Sun Aug 16, 2009 5:13 am

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

you can't argue the existence of something. you have to prove it existentially. This goes back to the old logic flaw of arguing about existence as being one of God's perfections, hence he exists.
I have always found it amazing that believers can not prove their god exists and then go beyond that to describe his attributes and desires. Then what is said by christians is "prove he doesn't' exist." (incorrect burden of proof)
It would be interesting to take the argument one step out and ask them to "prove" one of the attributes like all loving or all merciful or prove that the bible is the word of this god.
it is funny to think of the analogy of the higgs boson. We estimate some characteristics based on math and physics. so to "look" for God we would have to look at the universe around us, completely objectively and estimate the characteristics of this "god". I think some of the last traits we would apply would be merciful, loving, or even all knowing.
Mon Apr 09, 2012 12:42 am
Master_Ghost_KnightContributorUser avatarPosts: 2719Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:57 pmLocation: Netherlands Gender: Male

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

This is an objection that I have raised all along. No purely philosophical argument could ever establish the existence in reality of anything whatsoever. That is an impossibility, i.e. it just can't be done. And when some one claims to have done something that it can't be done (like christian apologists) you know that the next thing it comes out of their mouths is complete horse shit.
Anyone who has studied the works of Descartes in high school should be sufficiently armed to understand why, however this is a fact that is very often overlooked by philosophers and they continue speeding along in their minivan as if this road didn't end abruptly in a 5 meters thick reinforced concrete Wall (because acknowledging this would some what undermine their activity). However it is far from me to say that philosophy is a dead horse, it is still useful to ascertain the truth value of certain philosophical statements and it is still a good starting point to think about things (even if ultimately they will be able to demonstrate that any of it is real).

Which makes the Devilsadvocate pretty easy.
devilsadvocate wrote:The tricky part is spotting irrelevant premises or hidden assumptions in the argument.

Because the right answer to this is everything.

Now the implications of this (if you haven't realized it yet) is that you have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the total contribution of the entire collection of WLC work that he has ever produce and that he could ever produce will never amount to nothing more than pure exercise in futility (refuting every argument he has ever made and that he will ever make even before he makes them).
"I have an irrefutable argument for the existence of...." NO, STOP! You are already wrong!
Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:50 am
nudger1964Posts: 185Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:02 pm

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

CosmicJoghurt wrote:
nudger1964 wrote:its the assumptions that are the problem with the logic.
its ok to make a logical argument using an assumption if you can demonstrate either with the following argument or seperate arguments that the assumption was true in the first place.
not being much of an expert on logic, it looked to me like to have a logic argument for the higgs boson would be making lots of assumptions you would need to demonstrate true, and that would require a lot of math...which is pretty much what happened so far as i thought.



You can't use an assumption as a premise for an argument, and then use the conclusion to prove that premise. That's called circular logic ;)


yes i agree, but didnt mean it that way, more as an argument within an argument, not the conclusion.
anyways, i have a huge problem with something cannot come from nothing. Nothing does not exist in this universe so you cant assume anything about it with logic from our universe
Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:51 pm
devilsadvocateUser avatarPosts: 246Joined: Sun Aug 08, 2010 8:28 pm

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

No purely philosophical argument could ever establish the existence in reality of anything whatsoever.


What do you mean by "establish the existence in reality"? If you mean, "bring into existence", then I'd agree. Our thoughts just don't have that power. If, on the other hand, you mean "gain knowledge of something('s existence)" or "give justification to a belief (about existence)", then I would disagree. I think you're quite a brilliant guy from what I've seen you write on the forums. It's quite likely some kind of misunderstanding is taking place on my part, so I'm conscious of that I am likely presenting false dichotomy here, but if what you meant was the former, "bring into existence", then I don't think you'll find many people, apologetic or philosopher, that would disagree with you.

If it's the latter, "gain knowledge of something('s existence)", the statement, "No purely philosophical argument could ever establish the existence in reality of anything whatsoever.", seems self-refuting*. That's a philosophical statement about knowledge, that, if justified and true, is in itself knowledge. Ok, so maybe it's not strictly knowledge about existence of a physical object, but still a statement about reality and previously undiscovered fact about it. About an existence of a rule of reality, if you will.

Descartes did himself prove the existence of various things, at least to the extend of his own satisfaction. Most famously that he himself exists, but also God's existence among other things.

*Of course, I don't know what you mean by "purely" in that sentence. Maybe there isn't any purely philosophical arguments, but then it would be a statement about non-existent things, in which case statements like, "Purely philosophical arguments hate cleaning", would be just as true, by virtue of there being none. As would the contradiction, "Purely philosophical arguments can establish existence in reality."
Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny.
Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:07 am
tuxboxLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 1172Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:05 amLocation: Vero Beach Gender: Tree

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

I do not believe arguments for the existence of God can convience skeptics. The main purpose for the arguments are to reaffirm an already held belief that one does exists. If that make any sense. I am drunk on Kentucky coffee at the moment.
"Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man." ~ Thomas Paine
Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:39 am
LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2995Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

tuxbox wrote:I do not believe arguments for the existence of God can convience skeptics. The main purpose for the arguments are to reaffirm an already held belief that one does exists. If that make any sense. I am drunk on Kentucky coffee at the moment.


Yes that makes sense.

My issue is with people like William Lane Craig who seems to think that his arguments do prove God to some extent, and furthermore that anyone who doesn't accept them is somehow intellectually inferior.
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Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:07 am
nudger1964Posts: 185Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:02 pm

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

the impression i get from WLC is that he is well aware that his arguments are fallacious. He is only interested in being able to appear to be making a rational argument.
same with the discovery institute. They dont care if they have a good argument, just one that sounds good.
Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:32 am
tuxboxLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 1172Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:05 amLocation: Vero Beach Gender: Tree

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

Laurens wrote:
tuxbox wrote:I do not believe arguments for the existence of God can convience skeptics. The main purpose for the arguments are to reaffirm an already held belief that one does exists. If that make any sense. I am drunk on Kentucky coffee at the moment.


Yes that makes sense.

My issue is with people like William Lane Craig who seems to think that his arguments do prove God to some extent, and furthermore that anyone who doesn't accept them is somehow intellectually inferior.



I am not very familiar Craig, but the less than 2 mins I have seen him speak on YT, he comes across as a d-bag.
"Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man." ~ Thomas Paine
Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:58 am
Master_Ghost_KnightContributorUser avatarPosts: 2719Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:57 pmLocation: Netherlands Gender: Male

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

devilsadvocate wrote:What do you mean by "establish the existence in reality"?

When I say that philosophy can't establish, I really do mean it can't prove, it can't demonstrate, you can't gain knowledge of something, that there is absolutely nothing you could possibly reason that would be able to tell you anything about the existence of something in the absence of appealing to some observation that is by nature more than capable of being false.
In short, the later.

I do however understand your skepticism, after all this is a fact overlooked by the vast majority of philosophers (for reasons that are obvious to me), the statement itself is not self-evident and I have taken the time to elaborate upon it in order to convince you.
So let first address your objections:

devilsadvocate wrote:Descartes did himself prove the existence of various things, at least to the extend of his own satisfaction. Most famously that he himself exists, but also God's existence among other things.

This one is actually easy to address. Did Descartes "prove"? Well if Descartes proven God's existence then why are you an atheist? Surely if Descartes did in fact proven it then that would mean that God does indeed exist despite the fact that you are not convinced by any arguments. Because if Descartes logic was sound and his premises true and if God didn't exist then that would mean that this are not sufficient conditions to make statements about reality, the direct implication would be that logic doesn't work ergo he didn't prove anything. So do you believe in God now?
Of course not, and the reason is that you are not convinced by his arguments due to the fact that they are flawed (as it couldn't be anything else) and thus hasn't really proven anything. When I say proven I really do mean proven, that it is not possible for someone to come-up say the opposite and be right. And I don't mean proven as "be very convinced that the reasoning did prove". I know that we very often do not use the right wording (I myself am guilty of that), but this is a key point and we need to be precise.
But surely I couldn't possibly touch the famous "I think therefore I am"? Well if you asked me that not 3 months ago I would probably let it slide as the only existence determined by pure philosophy (even though I would also say that I am not convinced yet), but not now. Because didn't Descartes made the assumption that he thinks?
Just because I mentioned Descartes it doesn't mean I agree with everything he said, most of it I do not, but that doesn't mean that all is put to waste. And it is precisely the motivational work that lead to the famous "I think therefore I am" that is important here, "What is exactly is it that we can say for sure (without making any assumption) about reality?"
You can throw out what you see because your senses can be deceived (there goes the entire connection with reality). Descartes even goes further to say, "what if there was a genie that distorts our perception of reality and confounds our reason?", perhaps a more modern version of this would be "What if you are a faulty computer program'" (there goes the ability of making right conclusions). And these aren't farfetched ideas, we all have experienced illusions and we have all made poor reasoning at some point or another. I agree with Descartes on this point, if you really want to know if it is really true or not you can't just assume things. That there is a physical reality is an assumption and that you can reason is an assumption. But I would go even further, if you have no assumptions you have no premises because premises have to be demonstrated to be true and without premises you can't reason and therefore you can't demonstrate that premises are true. Dead end.
If Descartes had taken this route he would not have made the statement "I Think therefore I am", but there is something that he was correct on, besides "I think therefore I am" there is nothing else.
What is left is to try and make the least amount and least controversial set of assumptions, and no matter what it is at its root there must an assumption held true without justification.
And this matter can be made worst, even if granting assumptions (you are familiar with this I am sure) what we think are ideas, and the ideas of things are not the things themselves. So even if your assumptions are true and your reason is perfect, you can still think on the ideas of things for which there is nothing from which those ideas of things are ideas from. You don't even know exactly what the nature of existence is, what exactly is it that makes something exist?
So as far as anyone is concerned there is absolutely nothing that links directly your mental perspective with actual existence, therefore you cannot form philosophical premises about reality which wasn't assumed without justification and as such no philosophical conclusions about reality can be taken.
Now this in itself says nothing about the ability for philosophy to make true statements, as far as I am concerned things like math are absolutely and unequivocally true despite the fact of it being purely philosophical. The problem is that things like math do not physically exist.

So how exactly do we know (and I mean it loosely) about things that exist? And the answer is (if you haven't figured it out already) you look at things and assume that whatever you are experiencing has some relation to what it actually exist. Although philosophical statements may play a part what you are doing from this point on is not philosophy but the second best thing, it is science. Science is about forming good ideas of things (that we say exist) from what you are sensing. That is why in science you are always smashing the ideas you form against what you can sense. Data, the most important key in science is nothing more than the output of some form of sensor.
In science you can never be absolutely certain about anything (even though you can get really close) and this is a consequence of what I have mentioned before, absolute certainty is what you have to sacrifice for using things that you see (which may not be right and you have to interpret), and that is what you require to have information about things that exists (to be able to tell something about things that exist).
After all we don't even know exactly what is the nature of this physical reality that we call "existence". As far as our experience goes "existence" is something about what we can sense, and that can be anything. It is like arriving late at a party and trying to figure out kind of games being played and you can only look at bits of it while you are half drunk. It may be a difficult task but it is an impossible one if you don't look. Same thing happens with things that exist, you may learn about them if you look, and there is nothing that can help you if you don't. How could you possibly bridge tought and existance otherwise?

Now for the piece of resistance.
devilsadvocate wrote:That's a philosophical statement about knowledge, that, if justified and true, is in itself knowledge. Ok, so maybe it's not strictly knowledge about existence of a physical object, but still a statement about reality and previously undiscovered fact about it. About an existence of a rule of reality, if you will.

I would contest that this wouldn't actually apply. But let's assume for the sake of argument that it does (I have no problem in assuming that it is). Well then that would have been a problem. But the problem is I have never proven it, because if I did then this would have been an exception to the rule and therefore I have never proven it, but if I have never proven it then it could still be true (because being proven is not a necessary criterion for being true).
As you can see from my reasoning when I made the statement "It is impossible to establish the existence of anything in reality what so ever" I have made certain assumptions, what I am trying to do here is to convince you to adopt those assumptions and accept my reasoning, just like every other argument does.

Now how does this relate back to proving God?
Well I hope to have convinced you by now that no matter what argument you make (short of any observation) it will never be able to turn around and say "therefore this exists" and be justified. And that the next best thing that you have at your disposal and that can actually inform you about things that exist is Science. Now in which category does WLC fall? Even if his arguments were correct (which aren't). When WLC made his Kalam cosmological argument, did he made an experiment to check? What observations did he make to base his ontological argument?
On a side note, just because WLC has failed to see a reason why his arguments are not sound, it doesn't mean that a smarter person could come along a do it instead (and unfortunately this is where all unfounded philosophical arguments end).
"I have an irrefutable argument for the existence of...." NO, STOP! You are already wrong!
Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:42 pm
FrengerBloggerUser avatarPosts: 831Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2011 12:50 pmLocation: Derby, UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

In relation to the OP.

My problem is that the assumptions in these logical arguments are never sound. If you could demonstrate the premises then I would agree that a god is more than 50% likely.

But they can never be demonstrated. The first major assumption is that the universe acts in occordance with a human beings logic and as we know from quantum mechanics that just isn't likely.

More specifically with the Kalam cosmological argument, it falls down when it claims "everything that comes into being has to have a cause" or to put it another way, "something cannot come from nothing".

The problem with that premise is we don't know what nothing is, and according to current known physical laws it doesn't look possible that nothing exists, whatever nothing might be. We have never had an example of "nothing" to test, we don't know what properties it would have and how we would go about testing it if even it were possible.

That's the problem with these logical arguments, they assume that their logic is enough to determine how the universe may or may not work, and time and time again they are shown that it just isn't.

"The universe is the way it is whether we like it or not" Lawrence Krauss.
Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:24 am
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nudger1964Posts: 185Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:02 pm

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

is that true...if you accept the premise isnt a God only as likely as anything else you can think of off the top of your head?
if thats true, then how can it make god more than 50% likely.
Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:22 am
FrengerBloggerUser avatarPosts: 831Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2011 12:50 pmLocation: Derby, UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Why arguments cannot prove God

nudger1964 wrote:is that true...if you accept the premise isnt a God only as likely as anything else you can think of off the top of your head?
if thats true, then how can it make god more than 50% likely.


No, I don't know why I put that.
Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:57 am
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