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The term Objectivity can be defined as:

of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind and not influenced by personal ideas.

Is it true that "X" exists in reality only when we are aware of having experienced it, or are aware of our potential of experiencing it either directly or indirectly through our five sense organs, namely - eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin?

In this regard, if no one has experienced "God", does it means "God" cannot exist; because, if "God" could have existed in reality, it would have already existed outside of our thoughts by now.

Even after all this, how can 2 people know of having experienced "God" and of not having experienced "God"? If it should be known that the knowledge of having experienced "God" is variable with respect to person and time, how could people try to disprove each other at the same time about having and not having experienced "God"?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jishin Noben, christo183, virmaior, Swami Vishwananda, Geoffrey Thomas Feb 1 at 8:46

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    "It is true that "X" exists in reality only when we are aware of having experienced it, or are aware of our potential of experiencing it through our five sense organs, namely - eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin? " Not exactly.... We have "knowledge" of past events that is not based on our "direct" knowledge but is based on historical facts, etc. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 31 at 13:49
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    Nonsense. Then black holes did not exist until 20th century. But somewhy they started to exist. Billions years old. Also, why do you assume that if something only is an idea, then it does not exist? Also, some people have less senses. And it is possible some species have more. I can't say that is a clever atheist position. But there are such, of course. – rus9384 Jan 31 at 15:02
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    @Raag "Even radio waves did not exist until some decades ago in the same way as black holes". Wait what? That makes literally - yes, not virtually, literally - no sense at all. We have evidence of radio waves that are billions of years old. If what you're claiming was true, you'd have just shown that something magically made radio waves appear and mislead us into believing they're much older than they are. Rather devilish really. (And I do have a degree in a scientific field and consider myself an atheist, but really that argument doesn't hold water) – Voo Jan 31 at 18:19
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    Pro-tip: If the something was as easy to prove as writing a two paragraph Stack Exchange post, you wouldn't have billions of people devoted to studying it. Give your species a little credit. The longer you live, the more you'll find that questions with complex manifestations in our society are actually complex. – jpmc26 Jan 31 at 22:36
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    “If no one has experienced ‘God’” - I think you might find that many people around the world would say that they have. This is at least one way that your proposed fact could be wrong: if any of them are right. – elmer007 Feb 1 at 4:47

10 Answers 10

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Atheist conceptions of the idea of God often rest on a straw man fallacy that portrays a theistic view of God as Russell's teapot or as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Both of these conceptions view God as an object which is easy to argue against.

These analogies of God as an object floating about in a gravitational field are weak, hence logical fallacies. They ignore theistic views of God as, at minimum, being omnipresent. A teapot or a monster is not omnipresent. Instead of viewing God as a teapot, a stronger analogy, more closely representing a theistic view, would be to see God as the gravitational field in which the teapot is moving, not as the teapot.

In other words, one can answer the question whether we can see God "through our five sense organs, namely - eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin?" as "sure we can", if we view God as manifested through such fields. Admittedly there is more to a theistic view of God than these fields, but they come closer than the teapot does and one can make objective measurements of their effects.

So the question of the objective nature of God can be transformed into a question for the philosophy of science: Do fields actually exist? If fields exist, there is no reason not to grant to theism the definite possibility that God viewed as a super field may be real.

When Marc Lange addressed the question of electromagnetic fields in the philosophy of science, he noted that although most scientists take such fields for granted since without them one has to accept action at a distance, not all of them do. On page 42, Lange quoted a textbook on electromagnetic theory:

The assertion [of the field's reality], taken by itself apart from the quantitative force-law is scientifically otiose....It is merely the physically irrelevant statement of a metaphysical conviction....This is certainly not a legitimate physical theory at all; it is the confusion of metaphysical belief with metrical physics....

Whether one accepts this view of electromagnetic fields the author at least understood the potential metaphysical and theistic problem that accepting such concepts presented.

To summarize, consider the question:

Is it true that "X" exists in reality only when we are aware of having experienced it, or are aware of our potential of experiencing it through our five sense organs, namely - eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin? In this regard, if no one has experienced "God", it means "God" doesn't and cannot exist; because, if "God" could have existed in reality, it would have already existed outside of our thoughts. Thus, "God" is merely an idea. Hence, this has to be the objective truth as everyone knows that they experience reality in the same way (i.e. through 5 sense organs).

How can this fact be wrong?

This can be refuted by noting that we experience field effects such as gravitation and light (electromagnetic field). Conceptions of God whether Platonic Forms, Plotinus' One, Judeo-Christo-Islamic or Hindu theisms could rest on this field concept although they have their own philosophical and theological origins.


"Flying Spaghetti Monster" Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

Lange, M. (2002). An Introduction to the philosophy of physics: Locality, fields, energy, and mass. Blackwell Publishing.

"Russell's teapot" Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot

"Straw man" Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

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    I agree generally with this answer, but I'm going to nitpick. I don't think Russel's teapot is a strawman of theism, at least not in the way you say. The idea of Russel's teapot is just that you should have evidence for a positive claim of existence, especially for something unique. It says nothing of needing to detect with the five senses directly. The omnipresence of god does mean it suddenly requires less evidence (I'd say the opposite because of how unique that is). – rtpax Jan 31 at 17:38
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    "This can be refuted by noting that we experience field effects such as gravitation and light (electromagnetic field). Conceptions of God whether Platonic Forms, Plotinus' One, Judeo-Christo-Islamic or Hindu theisms could rest on this field concept although they have their own philosophical and theological origins." We can experience the effects of gravity and light fields, yes, but not your god-fields so that seems like a non-sequitor to me. – Kevin Jan 31 at 20:19
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    Physicists posit fields to explain interactions between objects. We have no evidence of effects that might be explained by a 'God field'. You can't just go making up new fields with no measurable effects, otherwise we'd end up with an arbitrary number of 'real' fields that don't do anything. – patstew Jan 31 at 22:01
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    Also, an omnipresent field that doesn't have measurable effects doesn't really match up to any religious conception of God, so why call it God at all? – patstew Jan 31 at 22:08
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    Russel's teapot is about where we place the burden of proof for an unfalsifiable proposition. It indeed can be applied to many propositions of the general form "God exists" -- that they are unfalsifiable does not imply that they are true. But neither does it imply that they are false. Moreover, the uncomfortable truth for atheists is that the same applies to many propositions of the general form "God does not exist". In this sense, atheism is no more logically founded than theistic beliefs are. – John Bollinger Jan 31 at 22:19
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Whether or not God exists is an objective question with an objective answer, however the argument beginning

Is it true that "X" exists in reality only when we are aware of having experienced it, or are aware of our potential of experiencing it

is starting with a baseless assumption. It's kind of like assuming the strongest form of the anthropic principle. The weak anthropic principal is provable from base logic; however not so the strong. But this is rather like the strongest form "The solution set of the laws of physics is mathematically constrained so that all solutions have us within them."

Or another way, you exclude all things from ever existing that cannot be observed. The mathematics of the laws of physics does not do so. On what evidence do you make this assumption?

Or again, the top quark was always a solution to the laws of physics, but no known process makes it, and it was not observed until humans went out of their way to cause it to be made. You would exclude it being made in astronomical events because we cannot possibly observe the difference between it being created or not being created.

Or again, in the hyperinflation scenario, you would exclude from existence all distant galaxies as soon as they exited our light cone without cause or reason.

But faith is more logical than some would guess. For if you took the weight of the evidence for God existing, and the weight of evidence against as computed by the counterfactuals, you would find that believing either side requires a great deal of faith. On one side you have a thing that will not be easily detected and on the other side a ridiculously long set of die rolls to pass. Even if you did assume the strongest anthropic principle it is no wedge to decide between two solutions.

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    We don't know what those "dice rolls" are that we need to pass, and the universe is unfathomably large, making for a ton of "dice rolls". It is not at all difficult to accept that random chance produced life on a tiny little spec of dust somewhere in the cosmos, and the weak anthropic principal says we observe it happening here simply because we are here to be observers. On the whole, the universe seems rather inimical to life, not really what you would expect from a Biblical God. – asgallant Jan 31 at 23:06
  • @asgallant: The odds of getting the first planet capable of sustaining advanced life (turns out means life that walks on dry ground) are more difficult than one in ten to the seventy-fifth power. – Joshua Jan 31 at 23:19
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    @Joshua "The odds of getting the first planet capable of sustaining advanced life (turns out means life that walks on dry ground) are more difficult than one in ten to the seventy-fifth power." No, it isn't. Anyone who claims to be able to calculate the probability of a planet developing that can sustain advanced life, is sorry to say... a quack. – Eff Feb 1 at 8:07
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    One quote I remember from Einstein: "I like to think the moon is there even if I am not looking at it." It was about quantum mechanics but also, I think, is appliable here. Why wouldn't something exist before its observation? – rus9384 Feb 1 at 17:18
  • @rus9384: Hence the totality of my argument. – Joshua Feb 1 at 17:22
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Is it true that "X" exists in reality only when we are aware of having experienced it, or are aware of our potential of experiencing it through our five sense organs, namely - eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin?

I do not accept that proposition, or at least I do not accept that the definition of "reality" it implies is equivalent to common-use definitions such as the Oxford dictionary's:

The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.

The "reality" defined by your proposition is individual and personal, defined separately for each person by their awareness and experience. The common interpretation and usage of the word, on the other hand, as represented by the Oxford definition, posits a single actual state of things at any given time, independent of people, and of their thoughts and ideas.

Or perhaps you meant the "we" in your proposition to be interpreted collectively, so that your "reality" encompasses everything that is part of any person's awareness or experience. Even ignoring some potential problems with that, it's still inconsistent with my notion of "reality", which supposes that a great many things exist and are real that no human ever has, will, or even can experience. I assert, in fact, that your definition is completely incompatible with Oxford's, and mine, in that the latter describes a reality that is independent of human thought and experience, but yours is completely dependent on human thought and experience.

In this regard, if no one has experienced "God", it means "God" doesn't and cannot exist; because, if "God" could have existed in reality, it would have already existed outside of our thoughts.

Yes, that -- at least the "doesn't" part -- follows directly from your definition of "reality", but

  • So what? If you want to debate whether God is real, then you first have to come to a reasonable agreement about the terms involved. Your "reality" is not the one to which I normally take the central idea of atheism to apply.

  • Moreover, to reach the conclusion, you are assuming that "no one has experienced 'God'". At best, that's an unsupported assumption. At worst, it's an assumption of the conclusion. You have no way to establish the truth of that claim, which is in fact directly contradicted by numerous purportedly true stories in religious literature and elsewhere of people physically perceiving or experiencing God. Some of those describe manifestly objective events, such as miraculous healings and unnatural effects on geographical features. Perhaps none of those stories are true, but they establish that your assertion about people not having experienced God is not even a generally accepted position.

Thus, "God" is merely an idea.

This has not been established by your argument.


Overall, with respect to the title question,

Isn't the knowledge of the non-existence of “God” objective?

, no, absolutely not. If we suppose, arguendo, that God does not exist, then how do you suppose anyone could perceive that nonexistence, and so establish it as objective truth per the definition you present? Failing to perceive something is quite a different thing from perceiving its absence, especially if you do not know what you should expect to perceive if that thing were present.

If God does exist in some objective form or fashion then we can suppose that someone, somewhere may perceive that, or may have done in the past, or may do in the future. Thus it is at least conceivable that the existence of God could be objectively established. The opposite, on the other hand, cannot ever be objectively established.

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    Incidentally, personal realities are divergent, so we would know pretty quickly if individuals had their own realities. – Joshua Jan 31 at 20:01
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    This should be the top answer. The OP is chock full of logical fallacies and this points most of them out. – Omegastick Feb 1 at 1:31
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A lack of evidence for something is not evidence for a lack of something. By the very nature of the concept, it is not possible to "prove" (or really empirically determine, since true proof struggles to exist outside mathematics) the non-existence of a God, because God is inherently a transcendent being who exists above the rest of reality, and as such God's existence can always be reconciled with any given feature of reality by saying that He put it there. If He cannot be observed it's because He doesn't want to be observed. The argument for atheism is not that the lack of evidence for God proves that God doesn't exist, but rather that since it is not proven that God does exist there's not much point in bogging yourself down with the unfounded belief that He does.

To take the epistemology out of a religious context, think about how you could be a brain in a vat being fed artificial experiences by an advanced computer, instead of the full-bodied human operating in the real world that you think you are. The lack of evidence for being a brain in a vat does not constitute evidence that you are in fact not a brain in a vat. So you're just sort of stuck in a position of not knowing what to believe, and really there's no right answer. You can assume that you are a brain in a vat, or you can assume that you aren't. It's a lot more convenient to assume that you aren't, but you could just as well be wrong as you could be right, and for all you know I could even be the mad scientist who put your brain in a vat, telling you this to maintain the façade.

(hope this didn't seem too biased towards my own secularism)

  • "since it is not proven that God does exist there's not much point in bogging yourself down with the unfounded belief that He does" This seems more an argument for theistic agnosticism than atheism. – curiousdannii Feb 1 at 2:21
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In this regard, if no one has experienced "God", it means "God" doesn't and cannot exist

Not so long ago, no one has experienced diving the Mariana Trench; then someone did do so. Did the Trench not exist before?

Imagine there were no humans (nothing intelligent on earth). Would that mean that the planet could not exists?

100 years ago nobody could even have imagined our technology (which is true if you read their SciFi books - those are sounding really old-fashioned today; even their most progressive minds could not imagine our everyday stuff). Would that mean that it doesn't (well, not back then) and cannot exist?

If we kill all humans, does the universe go "poof" because nobody can witness it anymore?

are aware of our potential of experiencing it through our five sense organs, namely - eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin

I assure you there are people out there who are indeed "aware of our potential of experiencing God through our five senses" - people even wrote a book about it. Literally.

This does not make God exist though, either.

How can this fact be wrong?

Well. You have to prove facts. You cannot just not be able to imagine a way in which it could be false, and then posit that it must therefore be true.

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I have more senses than sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. In a dark room, I can tell you whether my right elbow is straight or not, to give one example, without seeing it or touching it. Nor is it necessary that every observer be able to observe something. I've known some blind people, for example. If I put a pencil partly in a glass of water, everybody who sees it from the side sees that it's bent, and can feel that it's not.

So, you're gravely oversimplifying. We use senses to construct something of a consensus reality, and accept that there are things we can't detect. Nor are you qualified to say that no one has experienced X; that is an assumption based on the concept that X doesn't exist, and is circular reasoning.

So, it's possible that some people have a sense that somehow perceives God. It doesn't have to be everyone, and the perceptions don't have to be all identical.

Now, it's true that we can't make an artificial God detector, but it's conceivable that we can produce one in the future that works on the same principle as people's sense of God.

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    "Nor are you qualified to say" +1. No one is qualified to say anything. But if you want to use logic, observation, and reasoning to discuss the cosmos, I'll be over there somewhere. – Mazura Jan 31 at 18:36
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    To rephrase: there have been something like a hundred billion people born, and we have absolutely no record of most of them. The only evidence for a statement that is true for all people is that it has to be true for all people. "No humans have been reptiles" is reasonable; "no humans have experienced God" has no support unless no humans could possibly experience God (or, I guess, if the OP has managed to interview over ninety billion dead people). Therefore, the statement can't validly be used to argue that there is no God. – David Thornley Jan 31 at 22:31
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is it true that "X" exists in reality only when we are aware of having experienced it,

Your definition does not state that you must be aware of having experienced it. Its plausible that there are many things you have experienced that you are unaware of. Some of those things could be objective.

Airplanes objectively have an effect on ants. It's not clear whether ants comprehend this effect for what it is.

In this regard, if no one has experienced "God", it means "God" doesn't and cannot exist;

Let's assume this statement is true. Since you can't know who has or has not experienced God, you can't determine whether God does or does not exist from it.

That said, I reject that this statement shows that God is not objective, according to your definition. "Perceptible by all" does not imply that something has been perceived by all or even by any. Only that it is capable of being perceived. Its unclear whether or not God can be perceived.

because, if "God" could have existed in reality, it would have already existed outside of our thoughts.

This statement sounds like a tautology. Things that exist do exist outside of our own thoughts.

Thus, "God" is merely an idea.

Your arguments haven't shown that this statement is true.

Hence, this has to be the objective truth as everyone knows that they experience reality in the same way (i.e. through 5 sense organs).

Lets assume everyone experiences reality the same way. There's still no way to rule out whether experiencing God is possible or not.

That said, I reject the idea that everyone experiences reality the same way. It's possible that they do, but there's no way to actually know.

How can this fact be wrong?

If we accept your definition of objective, then you must prove that God cannot be perceived. Otherwise, in the absence of other information, its unclear whether God is Objective or not.

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It may be useful to apply your definition of objective to a couple of related objects: Anubis, the jackal-headed god of Egyptian mythology, and an actual jackal.

I, personally, have not experienced either one, so that path to objectivity is out. So we're left with being "aware of our potential of experiencing it through our five sense organs".

If we were in the same room as each of these, we can conceive of the information that our senses would report about them, and much of the information would be quite similar: Anubis is larger, stands on his hind legs, has darker fur, and the consequences of trying to taste him would presumably be much worse.

The difference here is not if or how my senses would react to them, but whether it's possible to be in the same room with them in the first place, i.e. Do they exist in reality? The answer to that question is objective. Either they do exist or they don't, and if they do, we can sense them. But knowing that doesn't tell us which answer is the correct one.

(n.b. I'm not sure I like the stated definition of "objective"; as others have pointed out, it doesn't include things like electromagnetic fields that can't really be sensed, but definitely exist. But for the purposes of this answer, I'm accepting the definition as given.)

  • We don’t know that electromagnetic fields exist. We observed certain events and created a model to explain them. The model is not the reality, no matter how well it predicts the reality. – WGroleau Feb 1 at 4:01
  • @WGroleau A thing that has the properties ascribed to electromagnetic fields exists, even if the current model isn't precisely correct. To take an older example, Newton was wrong about exactly how gravity worked, but the existence of "something that makes us fall down" was never in doubt. – Ray Feb 1 at 4:25
  • @Ray. True. Moreover, most probably, electromagnetic fields can be observed not directly by our eyes, but detected through a scientific instrument giving indication of a change in reality. That is how its effects must have been possible to be put to beneficial use. Has science detected "God" likewise and put it to beneficial use? – Raag Dholakia Feb 1 at 7:58
  • @RaagDholakia Not that I've heard of. To the best of my knowledge, there's no convincing evidence that God exists. I agree with your conclusion that God doesn't exist. But that doesn't mean that every argument that God doesn't exist is a good one. In your question, you say, "if no one has experienced 'God', it means 'God' doesn't and cannot exist". That doesn't follow. "We haven't experienced something" does not imply "We will (and can) never experience that thing". – Ray Feb 1 at 18:12
  • @Ray If "it" could have been experienced, "it" would have been experienced by all. How can 2 people know and not know "having experienced it"? If it is known that "having experienced it" is variable with respect to person and time, why do people disagree mutually at the same time about what is thought to be a universal knowledge? – Raag Dholakia Feb 2 at 8:33
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"Isn't the knowledge of the non-existence of “God” objective?"

If taking the definition of "Objective" meaning: not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

Then one could safely say yes, this is true. Faith is a personal feeling after all.


However; I have provided this definition, which differs from the one you provide in the body of your question. Since this is a philosophy site you should be aware of how important it is to align your ontology, that being the entities you suppose to exist and their definitions. If you choose to define things differently from what would commonly be defined (such as your definition as to what objective means) you can introduce inconsistencies.

For instance you go on to link objective with concrete senses. Which has spawned argument and further you have left room in the interpretation of 'existence' which from the following comment that you left:

Suppose you know "something" doesn't exist. It means it doesn't exist for you at present (It doesn't exist now). Suppose in the future, it exists. Then you would say at that time that "it exists now". I was referring to the present tense in the history rather than the past tense in the present. Sort of trying to live in the present - of history. Because, at that time you would say, "Radio waves don't exist". But today, we can say "Radio waves exist

From here we see that existence is is taking on the meaning of relative truth or individual reality. Individual reality isn't very mixable with the idea of objectivity especially as you define it being outside the mind...

I want to point that I don't think many people would disagree with my initial answer (as I defined ) but as you have redefined objective the answer becomes pretty intractable.

Finally it should be noted that the answer I provided is yes by definition and therefore it is a loaded question and provides no insight into reality (at least that I can see).

  • Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions itself means not influenced by subjectivity. Why should someone get influenced by others' personal feelings and opinions without having faith in them? If they have faith in others' feelings, it wouldn't mean that they have faith in unknown. – Raag Dholakia Feb 5 at 6:50
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I'd like to ask a couple clarifying questions but unfortunately do not have the reputation to add a comment.

of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind

With this definition of "objective", as pertains to God, who are "all observers"?

Is knowledge of God's existence an "object", "phenomenon" or "condition"?

If a cell in your body does not "experience" your existence through "sensory" input, does it make your existence less objective?

Does knowledge for non-existence require unanimous agreement? ("all observers")

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