Has anyone come up with a set of criteria that, if satisfied, would prove that god existed? For instance
if all the radio stations in the world simultaneously were interrupted with the message in their native
tongue saying that god exists, while at the same time the stars and sun blinked on and off for ten
minutes, would this be proof?
Would any experiment be free from suspicion or logical flaws?
Well, the first question I would ask is, to which god you are referring? I think that it would be easy to
prove that Thor exists, for example... you see someone who looks like Thor should look, riding
through the sky pulled by a hammer, who causes lightning and thunder when he throws it. Then you
get him to take you to Valhalla over the bridge Bifrost, and so forth. That would do it, wouldn't you
think? What about Krishna? We could go through the various characteristics of that god and find
some that would go beyond human capabilities and would fit his, and if he exhibited them that would
be, if not absolute proof, pretty good evidence, I would say. Baron Samedi? Well, pretty much the
The Christian god? Um... which one? The one who makes the Pope infallible, or the one who saves
anyone who repents and bathes in a river in a suitable religious ceremony... or perhaps you're
referring to the one who sent the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith? And certainly we shouldn't forget the
Islamic god(s)... there are at least two major sects there also, if I recall correctly, and they can't both
be right... just like one Christian god can't bothmake and not make the Pope infallible, etc., etc. Then
there's Judaism, and on... and on...
Well. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that there's some creature ("god") we hypothesize as
being infinitely powerful, ignore all the paradoxes that result from the term "infinite", and ask what
evidence we need to ascertain that creature's infinite power. That would require infinitely great
effects, right? So something as trivial as, say, blinking the sun — or even the galaxy — on and off just
isn't big enough; that could just as well be caused by some alien race... we've got to think bighere...
perhaps the whole universe blinking on and off? But then the problem is, how could we teeny finite
creatures knowthat infinite changes were being made? So we've got twokinds of problems with
ascertaining the existence of an infinitely powerful creature: 1) getting it to manifestsomething infinite,
and 2) ascertaining that manifestation's infinite extent... difficult for finite entities like ourselves, I
Now, I suppose that if we died and found ourselves in, say, the Islamic paradise (or actually, for those
of us who are infidels, the Islamic hell)... and we could determine that we hadactually died and
weren't hallucinating or the victims of an elaborate deception of some sort, andthe hell fit all the
parameters of Islam's hell as described in the Koran... well, then that would pretty much do it.
Unfortunately for that kind of very strong evidence (not, given the above meditation on infinity, proof,
mind you... it might be that Islam — or whatever religion you want to fill in the blank with here — is
mistaken about its god but correct about its hell, for example), you have to die. So not only is there a
repeat of the "infinite" problem, above, but there's another little problem with consensual validation
here... viz., communicating reliably with the living to let them know.
So that leaves blind faith, which would certainly indicate why religions are so strong on it. However,
as you can probably see from the tone of my answer, I'm not too enthusiastic about the "blind" aspect
of faith; I'm an empiricist, myself.
Steven Ravett Brown
There are arguments that effect the likelihood of there being a god. For example, the existence of this
kind of world makes the existence of god more likely than it would have been if this kind of world did
not exist. In other words, some types of evidence raise the probability that there is a god, while other
'atheological' arguments reduce that likelihood. However, there is an important distinction here: you
want an argument that would make the existence of god more likely than not.This is different from
simply raisingthat likelihood. There is a kind of inductive threshold then which one must cross before
this kind of argument becomes convincing.
How likely is the claim that there is a god? Not that likely, given the kinds of supernatural properties
and abilities he is supposed to have and our everyday experience of the world. God's abilities and
properties differ hugely from our everyday experience. While this does not prove that there isn'ta
god, it seems to me that the more unlikely a claim sounds, given what else we know and given our
background experience, the greater the burden of proof is upon the person who makes such a claim
to start with. In the case of god this places a huge burden of proof on someone who claims that there
is a supernatural being who has the properties that god is thought to possess. This is a general
suspicion behind any argument or experiment designed to show that there is a god.
No, no, and no. A being that had the power to perform all the feats you describe would have our
undivided attention, but not an incontestable claim to divinity.
Maybe the God-affirming radio pirate knew about the blinking stars in advance and simply exploited it
as a dramatic backdrop to his propaganda. We would be justified in regarding the source of "God
exists" and its non-English equivalents as an intelligent (but not a divine) being who is attempting to
communicate with other intelligent beings. A physical event by itself, however, no matter how
astounding (like the celestial light show), is not necessarily evidence of personal activity.
Your second question does not make clear whether the interruptions are in the languages regularly
heard on those stations or whether each listener hears the message in his or her own language,
regardless of his or her location. The former would involve fantastic mechanical control, but the latter
would involve even more astonishing mental telepathy.
But even a being who had such telepathic and star-manipulating power could not logically compel us
to accept that being's broadcast messages as true solely on the warrant of that great power. Such a
being would be godlike, but does that imply that he or she would be God, i.e., the creator and
sustainer of the cosmos? No.
Your questions imply that finding out whether God exists is like finding out whether there is, for
example, yet another planet in our solar system. An experiment with repeatable, sensory evidence is
irrelevant in the former case, as it would be in deciding whom to marry or what career to pursue. A
method appropriate to one area of experience is not necessarily appropriate to others. Even in the
case of finding out about heavenly bodies, the evidence is always short of "proof" in the sense of "an
argument that one is compelled to accept on pain of self-contradiction." Outside of math and logic,
there are no such proofs.
If that is so, then there are no successful proofs for the existence of God. There are, however,
philosophers who claim that the hypothesis of God's existence explains better than its rivals the
harmony of various orders of our existence: atomic, chemical, biological, logical, psychological,
intellectual, moral, and religious. There are, of course, philosophers ready to challenge such a claim,
but this, and not the search for the right experiment, is in my opinion that proper approach to the
question of God's existence.
Your question looks, to me, like a specific example of a much broader question: what level of
evidence is required to prove facts about the world — scientific, experimental facts, if you like. Asking
for a proof of god's existence in the sorts of terms that you use (and not on the basis of faith, for
example), is to ask for an empirical (or scientific) proof of god.
As such, we can look towards the philosophy of science literature on the nature of proof. Currently, I
would say, the consensus is that no amount of evidence conclusively proves a scientific theory about
the state of the world (such as, in your example, that god is a scientific fact). It is always possible to
appeal to other possible explanations of the phenomena, although these may start to look very far
fetched in the face of certain events (such as those you describe) and most people might switch to
the alternative explanation if it looks simpler and more elegant. So, atheists might give up their
current world view and become believers if your events occurred (although they might start believing
in cosmic practical jokers instead).