Nerdfighters

I have been an atheist for a while and have always been looking for an argument that will prove the existence of A GOD. A GOD is in all caps to show that I am not looking for you to prove the christian god or the greek gods, all i want is proof of the existence of a higher power that created all things. He does not have to be a moral being, nor does he have to give to craps about his creation. I just want someone to prove that he is there (I use he because in the English language we assume masculine when no gender is put forth). So anyone of any background of any knowledge level go for it. 

Oh and as a side note, yes you do have to prove that god is there, i don't have to prove he is not. It is like asking someone to prove that a dragon exists when the dragon will become undetectable the minute a person looks at is. The same is true for god. He does not exist in our plane of being as I have been told oh so many times and therefore cannot be detected in any way. So don't come in here and say that I have to prove that there is no god. That is for another debate.

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It doesn't sound wierd, and reminds me of one of my own arguments against Dawkin's view. IE that it is circular. My genes exist to perpetuate my gene's existance. I exist so that I continue existing. Pointless. Which then raises the question, why would we have evolved to a state where we can observe the pointlessness of our own existance? Surely it would have been better to evolve differently, so that we do see function in our existance.

@ Katherine:

The whole desire for 'continuation of species' doesn't apply on an individual level, so what motivates it? The motivation is instilled and intrinsic and must have been placed there by something, since it's clearly not logical in its own right. Ergo, God.

You have to remember that reproduction began asexually; most likely to increase the likelihood of continuing one's existence or that of the genetic material. Think of it as making backups on your computer, one hard-drive can fail with a certain probability, when having two hard-drives the chance of them both failing at the same time decreases dramatically (unless your house burns down). This is essentially what asexual reproduction does, and since it happens very fast it is quite sound since the number of copies doubles with each generation. When multicellular organisms first came about asexual reproduction occurred in the form of budding, essentially the cutting off of parts of the organism which then started growing and being an independent organism.

The most likely reason that sexual reproduction came about is an improvement of this continuing the existence. Asexual reproduction roughly creates 1:1 copies, save for mutations that happen when cell division takes place. Sexual reproduction reorganises genetic material through a process known as recombination, thereby diversifying the genetic material of one's offspring. This could be seen as to not "put one's eggs all in one basket". You also have to remember that sexual reproduction pretty much started off with just spewing gametes into the ocean en-masse, thus there was no dependence of the offspring to reduce survival chances of the parents. This spewing your gametes into the ocean turned out to be a very good protection against local threats. If we use the hard-disk analogy from the previous paragraph the spewing gametes into the ocean is making on-line backups, so the data is preserved when the house burns down.

The direct dependence of offspring on the parents for a longer period of time came about much later and apparently proved to be a very, very evolutionarily stable strategy (7 billion people and tons and tons of other animals).

Given this basic history of asexual reproduction (suddenly there's two of you, oh and then four, and then eight, and then 16, 32, 64, 128, etc.etc.) it is very logical to have this desire at the individual level. Because well, having two of you is better and four even better, etc. With budding it isn't much different, and with sexual reproduction as it first occurred there's only some energy expense for the creation of gametes. This explanation makes it very logically and does not need a god to account for it.

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@ Vertigo:

IE that it is circular. My genes exist to perpetuate my gene's existance (sic). I exist so that I continue existing. Pointless. Which then raises the question, why would we have evolved to a state where we can observe the pointlessness of our own existance (sic)? Surely it would have been better to evolve differently, so that we do see function in our existance (sic).

1. Please read my explanation above.

2. Why do you always assume such a purely nihilistic view when you're trying to take a look from the point of non-believing people? As an example, I place value in experience and can see function in our (my) existence beyond mere continuing my existence. These functions and values, however, are almost certainly subjective but that doesn't mean they're completely worthless or pointless. Of course, on a grand universal scale I'm agreeing on adopting a nihilistic view because humans are only a teeny tiny part of it all, and all we've built up likely won't leave any traces thousands or millions of years from now.

As to why we evolved this way? I would like to point you at your teleological viewpoint again because you seem to have the idea that evolution has some sort of definitive goal to it. Evolution happens because those who are most adapted to their environment generally are the ones with the greatest chance of reproducing and passing on their traits as encoded in genetic and epigenetic material. This all happens and change happens, but there is no goal in evolution in the way you seem to think there is. The only way your question could be answered is in a 'how come' way and not a 'what for' way.

We could indeed dream all we want about what things could have been better to have evolved because there is so much room for improvement in our bodies, but that simply didn't happen (though it might). Evolution is a tinkerer, not an engineer. And in order for us to look at the evolutionary process in a proper manner we need to get out of our humany-wumany engineer perspective and try to wear the glasses of a tinkerer. Because face it, we humans are very engineer-like in our point of view. We look at things and try to make them better with a perspective in mind, and yes that is also something that came about thanks to evolution (but that story I'll save for another time).

Thanks for replying! I do understand your point about asexual reproduction beginning as a sort of computer backup system for life, but (and warning, this will sound very nihilistic) I don't much see the basic point of life itself. We exist to generate. And pardon my nihilism, but from a coldly logical viewpoint life in itself seems rather ... pointless. Of course the experiences that I have had are subjectively very important to me, but I am looking at those experiences as an individual. The Universe doesn't care when I play laser tag with my friends or even when I die. And while I hope to influence others' lives and ways of thinking for the better up until and past the point of my demise, I in no way think my legacy will be permanent. Referencing existentialism, then; why would I exist only to be taken out of existence by the passage of time? What would the point of my living at all be if one day I was simply to not exist any more, to be wiped out of the universe altogether? If there is nothing after death, then life, in itself, becomes logically (if not subjectively) worthless. Or at least that's the way I view it; I'm delighted to hear your take on the matter!

Although, please don't misunderstand what I'm saying - I love life, and as an individual I think my life is very important and even great. However, speaking for a moment as the Universe, I could die in some terrifically mundane or horribly fantastic way tomorrow and the cosmos would continue on.

Does this make any sense? 

You're very welcome.

And ah yes, the great quest for the meaning of life! I completely see where the nihilistic viewpoint is coming from and, as I mentioned in my previous post, I agree with it on the universal scale because indeed the universe doesn't care (as far as we know). So yes, it makes very much sense. The first chapter of TFIOS springs to mind, where Hazel talks about oblivion.

As for your questions referencing existentialism, I'll save those for a later time in favour of sleep and to allow myself to ponder some.

I place value in experience and can see function in our (my) existence beyond mere continuing my existence.


Yes, but that function is not real. It is what you see, but it has no objective reality and as a result, no real value. You may value it, so may others, but in reality it is nothing.


As to why we evolved this way? I would like to point you at your teleological viewpoint again because you seem to have the idea that evolution has some sort of definitive goal to it.


Yes, survival. That is evolution's primary goal. And it doesn't make sense that evolution would give us to tools for survival which at the same time allow us to see the fruitlessness of it.

Yes, but that function is not real. It is what you see, but it has no objective reality and as a result, no real value. You may value it, so may others, but in reality it is nothing.

Whoa there, hold it. You're saying that my valuations and/or my experiences are not real, because they're not objective? You gotta be kidding me!

But wait a second. If you're serious about this 'not objective thus not real', then you're effectively saying that everything we experience is not real. Why is that? Neuroscience tells us that everything you experience is encoded by the brain, and the brain does not encode objective values. The brain encodes everything based on shifting reference points while the reference points themselves are not encoded. So everything in our brain that has to do with experiences, and that is to say everything, is relative; so according to your notion nothing we experience is real.

But I disagree with that view. Please allow me to quote a very wise man on that matter. "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" - Albus Dumbledore

Yes, survival. That is evolution's primary goal. And it doesn't make sense that evolution would give us to tools for survival which at the same time allow us to see the fruitlessness of it.

Welcome to life; the place where things don't make sense. If life were an engineer, then I'd have agreed with your view that it doesn't make sense. But life is not an engineer...

Of course I could give you an evolutionary psychological / biological theorem that perfectly explains it, but let's not do that here. I'm going to keep it short and hint at two things; 1. computational power and 2. spare time.

We humans have tremendous computational power in our brains and this allowed us to do many things that increased our chances of survival, such as creating a food surplus. We humans also have very much spare time; we're not really very busy with survival any more with our excess food and shelter and cities allowing us to have hobbies, to watch football, to obsess over fictional characters and the actors who portray them. Because these two coincide (so much computational power making us so good at survival) we humans are allowed to do all manner of things like create things that fly all across the world, study the sciences, and to ponder over the meaning of life and see the fruitlessness of it.

Whoa there, hold it. You're saying that my valuations and/or my experiences are not real, because they're not objective? You gotta be kidding me!


Not real in a meaningful sense, no. They need not bear any relation to the world around.

But wait a second. If you're serious about this 'not objective thus not real', then you're effectively saying that everything we experience is not real.


No. Much of our experiance is created by that which objectively exists.

We humans have tremendous computational power in our brains and this allowed us to do many things that increased our chances of survival, such as creating a food surplus. We humans also have very much spare time; we're not really very busy with survival any more with our excess food and shelter and cities allowing us to have hobbies, to watch football, to obsess over fictional characters and the actors who portray them. Because these two coincide (so much computational power making us so good at survival) we humans are allowed to do all manner of things like create things that fly all across the world, study the sciences, and to ponder over the meaning of life and see the fruitlessness of it.



I can very easily imagine ways that evolution can and indeed should have taken us that would mean that we would not be in this position. I find it very hard to believe that we are here just because of our desire to survive.

Not real in a meaningful sense, no. They need not bear any relation to the world around.

Then your valuations are no more real or meaningful than mine, since your brain is no exception to the non-objective encoding of information and value.

No. Much of our experiance is created by that which objectively exists.

Nothing we experience is objective, it's all based on reference points which aren't encoded at all; I'm sure you've read the rest of that paragraph? So then, your statement, how would one show that?

I can very easily imagine ways that evolution can and indeed should have taken us that would mean that we would not be in this position. I find it very hard to believe that we are here just because of our desire to survive.

And how should it have happened then?

Then your valuations are no more real or meaningful than mine, since your brain is no exception to the non-objective encoding of information and value.


No. I believe differently, IE that our brains are made to perceive truth. By believing in naturalism, you believe that our brains are just the product of a natural process.

And how should it have happened then?



Very simply. The intelligence for advanced tool building needed to come independently of our self awareness. Something that we can see beginnings of in other animals.

No. I believe differently, IE that our brains are made to perceive truth. By believing in naturalism, you believe that our brains are just the product of a natural process.

You can't deny the neuroscientific evidence that the brain encodes information in a non-objective way.

And why should a naturalist brain not be suited to perceive truth? In order to survive the outside world needs to be represented truthfully, and that generally does happen, albeit non-objectively. 

Very simply. The intelligence for advanced tool building needed to come independently of our self awareness. Something that we can see beginnings of in other animals.

Examples please? Because I want to know which species of animals we're going to argue about.

Higher mammals have been shown to be self-aware and to have (rudimentary) theory of mind. This is especially true in social animals such as apes, who also show tool-use. There is much more to our survival and intelligence than just advanced tool building, and I think there's the flaw in your argument. Humans and their ancestors have pretty much always lived in groups and over time these groups have become larger and larger and increasingly complex which needs sufficient social intelligence, which also means self-awareness.

Why did nature 'make' the first hard drive at all? Seeing as that is in apparent violation of the second law of thermodynamics.

The thing with this bit of thermodynamics is that it's classically about isolated systems. The decrease in entropy given life is local; a living thing uses energy from around it and it's far from an isolated system. The most likely candidate system for that would be the universe. It also deals with systems that are not in equilibrium, and life is pretty much constantly working to attain or maintain equilibrium.

When looking at it on a molecular scale certain local decreases in entropy are not in violation with the second law of thermodynamics on the greater scale. Let's take an enzyme and a ligand for example in a tub of water (or a human); the enzyme having an active site which is a hydrophobic pocket and the ligand being mostly hydrophobic as well. In these kinds of systems entropy is usually described as freedom of movement. If the active site is vacant there's water in it, the water molecules are in a very rigid state and we could call them "unhappy" because their degree of freedom is much lower compared to water molecules outside of this hydrophobic pocket. (Forming hydrogen bonds also play a role here, but we shall not consider those.) When the ligand comes along the water moves away from the active site and is replaced by the ligand. At a very local level, between the active site and the ligand, this decreases the entropy. If a covalent bond is formed between ligand and receptor there's even less entropy in that ligand-enzyme system. However, this has freed up a substantial number of water molecules from that rigid and "unhappy" state, so outside of this ligand-enzyme system there's much more entropy in our tub of water (as in freedom of movement of the water molecules).

A similar and less complex example would be with fat and water and why fat isn't soluble but 'prefers' to minimise its area that's in contact with water. These gains are especially substantial if you consider that there isn't just a single layer of water molecules in a rigid state around fat molecules but that a number of 10 layers of "unhappy" water molecules is very common.

*note: props to my pharmacology professor for the analogy of the unhappy water molecules.*

Then that apparently was an error on my part in the systems that thermodynamics deals with.

I realise that there is a leap from the hydrophobic effect to self replicating molecules. However, the interactions in forming molecules and complexes are relatively simple, and in using these interactions and effects such as I described in the hydrophobic effect we can extrapolate and elaborate to get to self replicating molecules.

DNA / RNA can be self replicating because the bases in a single strand can form hydrogen bonds with free bases and the sugar molecules of these free bases can form covalent bonds and thus a backbone. If this starts with one strand of DNA in a system with free bases then new strands can be formed as described above and since hydrogen bonds are not permanent (and much weaker than covalent bonds) the strands can get separated and the process can repeat. In such a system it's likely that an equilibrium will settle in with a concentration of free bases, of single strands, and of double strands. Growth in length can also be taken into account, but I'm omitting that.*

Yet I'm not going to argue that this is not how life began, since that indeed is something we don't understand (yet). To see how life could have begun we do have to look at the level of these relatively simple interactions and the formation and replication of such molecules.

I notice that this sounds very much like what Eystein mentioned in his post; even though I'm using this to argue something different, I see value in the ideas he presents with regard to the prebiotic RNA synthesis hypothesis.

Regarding abiotic or prebiotic synthesis or amino acids, there are quite some papers on that showing that it happens under various circumstances. One I find particularly interesting is this one where Europa-like conditions were simulated and a yield of adenine, guanine and a number of amino acids. Of course one paper doesn't say anything and it's only a tiny bit in the process of life.

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