Monday, 12 November 2007

Proof

There are those who demand 'proof' that God exists before they will believe in Him, and those who claim to have 'proof' that He doesn't exist.

I just found this little mathematical trick which shows that 'proof' is not necessarily infallible - I'm not a mathematician, but it all makes sense to me.

Theorem : 2 + 2 = 3

Proof:
Suppose: a + b = c
This can also be written as: 4a - 3a + 4b - 3b = 4c - 3c
After reorganising: 4a + 4b - 4c = 3a + 3b - 3c
Take the constants out of the brackets: 4 * (a+b-c) = 3 * (a+b-c)
Remove the same term left and right: 4 = 3
Therefore, if 2 + 2 = 4, then 2 + 2 = 3

The point is that once you have a hypothesis, it's very easy to 'prove' it one way or another. But God doesn't ask us to believe because we have proof - He asks us to believe because we have faith.

5 comments:

Dracunculus said...

Your have made fundamental flaw in your arithmetic, both terms go to zero. I once saw this done to make black == white

However...

"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"

Suppose I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.

"Where's the dragon?" you ask.

"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floats in the air."

Then you'll use an infra-red sensor to detect the invisible fire.

"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."

You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.

Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

newhousenewjob said...

Thanks for the comment, Drac. It needs a proper response, but I'm going to have to put off responding until it's not the middle of the night and only six hours before I have to get up for work - if anyone else wants to weigh in with their thoughts first, please do...

UltraCrepidarian said...

The dragon and garage idea is more flawed than the original math that she showed you.

For one thing, the universe is not proven to be containable in a garage of any size. Nor are you proven to have the sensory equipment necessary to detect God. It is no more reasonable to make your argument about God, than it is reasonable to accept the math she showed.

You have an a-priori assumption, and you'll do anything to honor it. As will someone who knows God personally, and is quite certain of his existence. Proof is impossible. Certainty is reasonable easily attainable. So let go of your need to prove things in this case, as you obviously do in every other case in your life. Why do you treat God as a special case? Do you prove the car exists before you drive it? Do you prove that air exists before you breathe it? Do you prove that tea exists before you drink it?

Warren

newhousenewjob said...

Ah, thanks Warren - you make my point so much better than I did.

Dracunculus said...

>For one thing, the universe is not
>proven to be containable in a garage >of any size.

Which is immaterial to the argument.

>Nor are you proven to have the
>sensory equipment necessary to
>detect God.

And neither do you. And whatever test I propose for you to show me that there is a god with the sensory apparatus I do possess somehow happens to have an excuse why it won't work (which is what the "Dragon in the Garage" argument is all about).

I treat God not as a special case but in the set of "Highly unlikely" along with mermaids, the Norse pantheon of deities and unicorns (pink, invisible or any combination thereof). My car, cup of tea, air etc are in a different set, that of tangible objects whose existence is easily verifiable by mine and every other humans' sensory apparatus.

I say again, you and the other believers are the ones making the extraordinary claim, you are the ones that need to offer up the proof. I'll even make it easy for you, I'll settle for "balance of probabilities".