QuestionWhich axioms should we start with in attempting to deduce whether or not a god exists from first principles?
      – Lee J Haywood, 2009-12-25 at 20:39:50   (5 comments)

On 2009-12-25 at 22:19:08, Lee J Haywood wrote...
The first mistake would be to assume that such an entity does exist and then look for evidence to the contrary, which fails to assume no prior knowledge. More generally, I think that anyone who accepts any superstition whatsoever - be it a god, bad luck from opening an umbrella or belief in horoscopes - lacks a sufficient breadth of scientific knowledge. But is there a step-by-step way to explain to somewhat what the arguments are (for or against) and have concrete counterarguments? Or is a logic-based approach impossible?
On 2009-12-25 at 23:40:47, Melchior wrote...
Almost certainly impossible for most people. Seeing how religion is based on certain things existing outside of normal logical boundaries, you can't take a logical approach. Um... I mean, you can take a logical approach, of course. Just don't expect the person you're debating with to accept it as an argument, because their god is above logic.
On 2009-12-26 at 09:23:26, Lee J Haywood wrote...
@Melchior: That's something we all know from experience, but forget about debating and forget about prior belief. I'm asking if you can come up with a logical series of rational arguments that could lead to either conclusion but which assign at least some probability to each branch. I suppose the main problem is that there's no clear definition of what a god is (and how it works), nor what would constitute evidence for one. Perhaps that's the greatest fallacy - not having a reasonable goal.
On 2009-12-26 at 23:52:20, Melchior wrote...
That's sort of what I meant. Most people's idea of god is that he is unknowable and powered by magic - you can't debate that. Any other definitions you would have to do on a case-by-case basis, but since the idea of god generally does not follow normal logical/physical laws then you can't use logic - god is logically undefined. Ignoring that problem, I guess you should start with "every effect has a cause"? Gets a bit tricky with big bang vs. creation, but Occam's razor ftw.
On 2009-12-27 at 11:06:17, Lee J Haywood wrote...
That's certainly the best starting point - the origin of the universe. Science simply accepts that the answer is not known, and may in fact be unknowable, whilst providing hypothetical scenarios. One powerful idea is that the physical laws are sculpted by natural selection, with our universe simply being good at producing black holes necessary to become the parents of new universes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Smolin#Fecund_universes A religion typically has the odd notion of assuming that a god created the universe without really thinking about where the god originated. When prompted, theists usually suggest that a god has simply always existed but fail to explain why the universe - which is considerably simpler than a god - couldn't simply have always existed as well (with no god required). Still, no matter how a god or the universe came into existence the biggest question is why anything exists at all - and what, indeed is existence other than what we perceive it to be?