Supernatural: Nature of relevant proofs/arguments

Since God (of the kind to which the arguments relate) is neither an entity in the universe nor a mathematical object, it is not obvious what kinds of arguments/proofs are relevant to God’s existence. Even if the concept of scientific proof were not problematic, the fact that there is no conclusive scientific proof of the existence, or non-existence, of God mainly demonstrates that the existence of God is not a scientific question. John Polkinghorne suggests that the nearest analogy to the existence of God in physics are the ideas of quantum mechanics which are seemingly paradoxical but make sense of a great deal of disparate data.

Alvin Plantinga compares the question of the existence of God to the question of the existence of other minds, claiming both are notoriously impossible to “prove” against a determined skeptic.

One approach, suggested by writers such as Stephen D. Unwin, is to treat (particular versions of) theism and naturalism as though they were two hypotheses in the Bayesian sense, to list certain data (or alleged data), about the world, and to suggest that the likelihoods of these data are significantly higher under one hypothesis than the other. Most of the arguments for, or against, the existence of God can be seen as pointing to particular aspects of the universe in this way. In almost all cases it is not seriously suggested by proponents of the arguments that they are irrefutable, merely that they make one worldview seem significantly more likely than the other. However, since an assessment of the weight of evidence depends on the prior probability that is assigned to each worldview, arguments that a theist finds convincing may seem thin to an atheist and vice-versa.

Philosophers, such as Wittgenstein, take a view that is considered anti-realist and oppose philosophical arguments related to God’s existence. For instance, Charles Taylor contends that the real is whatever will not go away. If we cannot reduce talk about God to anything else, or replace it, or prove it false, then perhaps God is as real as anything else.

In George Berkeley‘s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge of 1710, he argued that a “naked thought” cannot exist, and that a perception was a thought; therefore only minds could be proven to exist, since all else was merely an idea conveyed by a perception. This viewpoint has been used in popular fiction, including The Matrix movie series. From this Berkeley argued that the universe is based upon observation and is non-objective. However, he noted that the universe includes “ideas” not perceptible to mankind (or not always perceptible), and that there must therefore exist an omniscient superobserver, which perceives such things. Berkeley considered this proof of the existence of the Christian god.

Outside of Western thought

Existence in absolute truth is central to Vedanta epistemology. Traditional sense perception based approaches were put into question as possibly misleading due to preconceived or superimposed ideas. But though all object-cognition can be doubted, the existence of the doubter remains a fact even in nastika traditions of mayavada schools following Adi Shankara. The five eternal principles to be discussed under ontology, beginning with God or Isvara, the Ultimate Reality cannot be established by the means of logic alone, and often require superior proof. In Vaisnavism Vishnu, or his intimate ontological form of Krishna, is equated to personal absolute God of the Western traditions. Aspects of Krishna as svayam bhagavan in original Absolute Truth, sat chit ananda, are understood originating from three essential attributes of Krishna’s form, i.e., “eternal existence” or sat, related to the brahman aspect; “knowledge” or chit, to the paramatman; and “bliss” or ananda in Sanskrit, to bhagavan.


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