Monday, October 31, 2011

Asimov, Atheists, Faith, Deluison and Religion

When I was a child I loved Isaac Asimov. There was no better author in the known universe in my eyes as I became a teenager. In high school I discovered that others had put away the faith of their parents to become atheists or agnostics. I drifted to the faith of my favorite author, Atheism. Talking about agnosticism or atheism in high school it was obvious to us that agnosticism was the only religious choice based purely on reason. Atheism and religion both take a leap of faith that some of us were unable to take.

I carried a Bible in my car because I promised my Grandmother that I would but it was not something I thought much about. I had read the entire thing although I doubt if I had paid much attention to it as I read.

Asimov wrote about a religious robot in one of the short stories in "I, Robot". It was an awesome story and some of us discussed it. One passage in particular I really enjoyed where Asimov wrote about the process of reason.

The two primary characters, Donovan and Powell, discuss the process of reason. Powell makes the point that deductions made through the process of reason are based on postulates or assumptions.

For example, there is the “prove you do not have a weasel in your pocket” argument where a person will empty their pocket to show that there is no weasel in their pocket. How do we know that the weasel is not invisible or did not teleport from the pocket during the emptying process?

Theoretically we know that invisibility and teleportation are possible. We assume that weasels do not have these capabilities and so we assume that reason allows us to prove that there is not a weasel in our pockets.

Are these reasonable assumptions?

In science there are no reasonable assumptions. Everything must be proved in double blind, repeatable experimentation.

Then there is the analysis of results.

The results of properly defined, properly conducted experiments will be “consistent” within a range. Is that range acceptable? That depends on the requirements of the process and requirements are always changing.

A scientific result will always be defined with at least a mean result and a standard deviation. There are four numbers that define the consistency of the result, the mode, the mean, the median and the standard deviation. Without all four of these numbers the consistency of the results cannot be objectively evaluated.

Sometimes results will be published with a mean and a “range”. A standard deviation can be reverse engineered by dividing the range by six, assuming the range is defined by a plus or minus three standard deviations.

Some readers are probably going WTF does this have to do with reason?

The problem with logical deductions will always be the assumptions. Asimov tells us in his short story that any conclusion can be logically derived through the use of reason depending on the assumptions made.

True or False, On or Off, simple change of state is easy. Analysis of results that are less obvious than On or Off requires an understanding of the statistical data.

For this paper let us assume that there are three possible positions, atheist, agnostic or religious.

If we make an assumption we can conduct an experimentation to test that assumption.

For example, if we assume that a loving God will always present themselves to large groups of people on demand in such a way that the presentation can be recorded using currently available instrumentation. If we assemble a large group of people and God does not present themselves in a way that can be recorded we have either proved God does not exist or that the assumption is inaccurate.

If God does appear in such a way that the presentation is recordable we have proved God does exist.

So we have three possible outcomes for an experiment, our assumption is incorrect, God does not exist, God does exist. The fourth possibility is that we can argue the legitimacy of the results claiming delusion.

For any experiment we conduct there are three possible negative outcomes and one possible positive outcome. For the purposes of experimentations of the existence of God you may choose either the results providing proof of God's existence or the lack of appearance as the positive result.

One result provides evidence for atheism. One result provides evidence for religious beliefs. Two results provide evidence for agnosticism, the assumption is questionable or the results are questionable.

Reason tells us that if the assumptions are questionable the experiment is invalid. Reason tells us that if the results are questionable the experiment is invalid.

I parted with Asimov in my mid twenties because I realized that there is a repeatable experiment that can prove to the experimenter that God does exist.

Someone can give their heart to God through their religion. Typically this will result in a profound and permanent change in their thought process and their activities.

Again, there are three possible results. One, God does not reveal themselves to the experimenter. Two, God does reveal themselves to the experimenter. Three, God does not reveal themselves to the experimenter BUT the experimenter claims that God has.

Three possible results, no change, permanent change, temporary change.

Can we judge a change? Maybe. If the experimenter claims a specific change and then claims a reversion to a previous behavior it is fairly easy to observe a temporary change.

Can we make a judgment just by watching someone? Christ tells us not to judge and I believe this is because we cannot effectively judge the change that occurs in a person's heart.

God could also tell us. Christ tells us that God communicates to us through the Holy Spirit so claiming the Holy Spirit has given a specific instruction or bit of knowledge when that has not occurred may be the one unforgivable sin. I would be very careful running around saying that the Holy Spirit told me anything, unless I didn't really believe in Christ OR the Holy Spirit did actually show me or tell me something.

Pure reason without resorting to assumptions tells us we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God to a group. Agnosticism.

By making some assumptions on what we believe God should or should not do we can use reason to prove God does not exist. We can also claim the assumption that everyone who believes in God and has experienced some form of religious transcendence is deluded. Atheism becomes a leap of faith in our assumptions.

Using a simple experiment a person can prove to themselves and only to themselves that God does exist.

Three possible choices. One requires no faith in either ourselves or our assumptions. One requires a leap of faith in our assumptions. One requires a basic confidence in our own observations.

I can trust no one (agnosticism). I can trust the assumptions of others and place no confidence in my own observations (atheism). I can reject assumptions and accept that my observations are valid (religious).

Every experimenter must accept that their observations are valid. Galileo could not record his experiments. Galileo could only observe and write down his observations. Those who reproduced Galileo's results proved to themselves that Galileo's observations were accurate. Of course many closed minded people rejected Galileo as delusional.

Until we find a way to record the experiment of a person giving their heart to God we can only depend on the reproducible nature of the experiment and the billions of experimenters who have claimed to have successfully reproduced the experiment.

Or, we could become as the inquisitors who claimed Galileo was delusional.

No comments: