God is imaginary by definition.
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30-05-2014, 02:54 AM (This post was last modified: 30-05-2014 03:09 AM by rampant.a.i..)
God is imaginary by definition.
Bear with me here. This is an idea I've been mulling over for a number of years, but haven't been able to put into words.

There's a position I've long held that I can't quite quantify correctly, but typed some of in response to another post. I hope you can help me refine it.

In early Gnostic Christian mysticism, there existed an idea that God was a single word that encompassed all of existence. The highest angels, Seraphim and Cherubim, were short paragraphs that explained all of existence.

This idea is present in Genesis where God spoke a word, and the universe came into existence, and reflected all the way up to Anglo Saxon folklore in the concept of Dead Naming.

The archetype seems to be that words have power, but only because they are shorthand for concepts with even more power. Concepts, after all, are immortal. They exist independent of space and time, and are not subject to the constraints of the material world.

So, based on our understanding of the language and definitions we rely on to transmit concepts between minds, we can invoke a sort of Definitionalism as a rubrik for concepts we would otherwise be unable to communicate by shorthand.

Definitionalism is the clarification required for specific, well-defined concepts to be transmitted between minds by language. Without relying on definitions, there could be no consensus to differentiate the concept of <Oxblood leather wingtips> from <navel oranges>. If I walk up to you on a street corner and tell you about my empirical experience of wearing Rockport oxeblood leather wingtips, and you are thinking of the experience of naval oranges on your feet, all of the concepts I'm relaying become nonsensical.

So we rely on definitions of words as shorthand for concepts to communicate effectively, if at all.

Based on the definition:

Given that God is omnipresent, exists outside of space and time and everywhere at once, yet intangible, has characteristics yet cannot be by definition confirmed or disproved empirically, is said to interact with the world only by cosmic events rationally explainable, save for a book with no empirical evidence for the events said to transpire in realize by that book, and many, many conceptualizations of God exist far predating the Christian worldview, even though God is said to be eternal and unchanging, God only qualifies as a concept.

For concepts to exist, a mind a required.

And there is no real world distinction between a concept used to explain events in the material world, and an intangible, non-falsifiable, empirically exempt entity.

Therefore: God exists. As a concept.

In the mind of believers in God, as a concept, that only manifests in the material wold through material means otherwise explicable.

Therefore God is imaginary.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes
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30-05-2014, 03:16 AM
RE: God is imaginary by definition.
That doesn't make any sense to me. I guess I'm retarded.

Truth seeker.
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30-05-2014, 04:37 AM
RE: God is imaginary by definition.
(30-05-2014 02:54 AM)rampant.a.i. Wrote:  Concepts, after all, are immortal. They exist independent of space and time, and are not subject to the constraints of the material world.

(30-05-2014 02:54 AM)rampant.a.i. Wrote:  For concepts to exist, a mind a required.



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30-05-2014, 05:09 AM
RE: God is imaginary by definition.
(30-05-2014 02:54 AM)rampant.a.i. Wrote:  ...
Therefore God is imaginary.

Agreed.

And some branches of Buddhism would agree too.

But, sadly, one cannot make a leap to say that a god is only imaginary.

I can think of an experiment to test the latter hypothesis but unfortunately it involves a scenario where we are all dead.

Smartass

I like your line of reasoning though. Keep going. But I don't think you'll ever be able to join up the concept of a god with an actual god.

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30-05-2014, 05:49 AM
RE: God is imaginary by definition.
Hello rampant.a.i., how are you? Thanks for bringing up a very interesting topic.

I think I mostly agree with your description. To me, it seems that gods only appear in our minds and in the products of our minds; we can speak about them, write about them, paint them or sculpt them in the way we imagine them, but they never seem to appear out there without our intervention. At least, I have never seen or otherwise experienced one.

As you say, deities are most likely abstract concepts produced by our imagination, but I wouldn't be surprised if their relationship with our imagination went beyond simply being part of it. We are a creative species, possibly the most creative species on this planet, capable even of creating imaginary deities with the super power to create whole universes; we are creators of creators. But our ability to create new stuff is not something we inherit from our earliest ancestors; if it were, our inventiveness would be noticeable in species other than our own.

Rather, our ability to produce abstract information in our brains seems fairly recent; judging by the fossil record, maybe as recent as 50,000 years or so. And that is interesting, because the oldest fossils found with an unmistakable human anatomy are closer to 200,000 years old, which would suggest that our ability to invent stuff, at least in our evolutionary branch, appeared within our species and not before; that might explain why, out of all hominids that have existed so far, H. sapiens seems to be the only one worshipping deities. But the key point in this idea is that the first imaginative person may have been born within a group of unimaginative people.

Collectively, we now have a fairly decent understanding of how our bodies are complex aggregates of cells and inorganic substances produced by them, how our cells are chemical processors operated by our genes and the proteins they build, and how a subset of our cells form a nervous system capable of analysing information gathered through the interaction of our sensory organs with their environment, processing that information in logical ways and producing an output response that is hopefully beneficial, or at least not detrimental, to the structural integrity of our selves and/or our genes. Our ability to invent stuff is not unlimited nor magical, it is simply another useful feature of our brains; one more feature of our genes.

But what would have been the explanation that someone imaginative would have given about him or herself 50,000 years ago? If a person able to invent stuff, but without the knowledge we have gathered throughout centuries, were born within a group of uncreative people, is it possible that he or she might have viewed him or herself as a super powerful creator? Could it be that abstract deities are not just part of our imagination, but that they reflect our ability to imagine new things? Could the ancestral gods that seemed to roam the Earth, if one is to believe the stories told about them, be echoes of a time when only a few creative people lived among larger groups of unimaginative people? The shepherds and their flocks. Could those be the original real gods, a few people made of flesh and bone but with the special ability to create words and other abstract notions? Could that be why we have a history of creators and believers; leaders and followers? I don't know, it is just an idea, as abstract as the concept of a god, but I would not be surprised if it turned out to be the case.

There is one part of your description with which I am not sure I entirely agree, though. You've suggested that abstract concepts occur outside space and time, but I am not sure that can be the case. Abstract concepts rely on the relative motion of many things inside our brains. Electrically charged ions flow in and out our nerve cells in order to propagate our nervous impulses, proteins change their shape thus helping direct those ionic flows, small molecules (neurotransmitters) must traverse synaptic clefts... in order for abstract notions to appear in our minds, plenty of things need to move in reality, and motion occurs over a non-zero length of time. Abstract notions may refer to timeless entities, but they appear in our minds over non-zero lengths of time. So while I agree that abstract notions do not exist in space, because they do not occupy any specific spatial volume, I wouldn't say they occur outside the context of time.

But that is only a slight shade of meaning; I mostly agree with your view and I certainly think of gods as imaginary entities.

Thanks again for an interesting thread. Have a good time!
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30-05-2014, 08:49 AM (This post was last modified: 30-05-2014 08:59 AM by true scotsman.)
RE: God is imaginary by definition.
You are absolutely right. The idea you are talking about of concepts existing out there somewhere apart from the material world is from intrinsicism and idealism. Concepts are somehow pressed into our mind from this other realm directly. Hence the idea of the holy spirit working on the believer to inform his understanding of the Bible.

But in actuality, Concepts are a tool of human cognition that allows us to deal with an unlimited amount of knowledge and to extend our consciousness to the past and the future and outward from our direct sphere of sensory perception by compressing it much like a computer file is compressed. In concept formation the essential similarities among a group of percepts are retained while their measurements are omitted. The faculty that forms them is man's conceptual faculty of reason. It is very much "this world". It is the faculty that identifies and integrates the information brought to man about existence by his senses. It is not an automatic faculty but is very much dependent on volition. The final step in the process is applying a definition so that you can communicate it to others. This is essential.

Ironically this faculty which separates us from all other animals and is what is responsible for art, music science, literature and all other products that make us unique on this planet is the faculty that Christianity rejects but they bristle when you tell them that Humans are animals. Again, ironically the bible has plenty to say about where we can put our genitals but not much to say on how to use our minds to gain knowledge except to tell us "you just have to have faith".

Since existence exists independent from anyone's wishes, likes, dislikes, preferences and tantrums, we must look outward at the world to gain knowledge of it (this is the primacy of existence over consciousness principle). This is what it means to be objective. For a concept to be valid it must be ultimately reducible to sensory perception. You can not inform a concept of a realm outside of nature from inference made by looking out at the world. For that you have to look inwardly, to your imagination.

So you are absolutely right that the concept of God is imaginary and thus invalid.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
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30-05-2014, 01:58 PM
RE: God is imaginary by definition.
(30-05-2014 05:49 AM)living thing Wrote:  But our ability to create new stuff is not something we inherit from our earliest ancestors; if it were, our inventiveness would be noticeable in species other than our own.

I agree with most everything in this thread except this. Our ability to create new stuff is something we do inherit from our earliest ancestors.

And yes, inventiveness is noticeable in species other than our own. No, not to the extent to which our species has developed, but creativity and inventiveness has been observed and consistently demonstrated in many other species.

Chimps have been taught sign language and once a small vocabulary has been compiled, they have been quite creative with it. A few chimps who have been taught sign language have even been observed attempting to teach it to their offspring.

Rats are actually among the most inventive creatures on the planet... they've survived right alongside human beings for millions of years.

Certainly, there may be developmental limits in other species, but creativity and inventiveness is part of what can help a species adapt and survive -they are valuable cognitive tools. Thumbsup

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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30-05-2014, 05:39 PM
RE: God is imaginary by definition.
Hello kim, how are you?

I'm not sure we disagree; we may be simply interpreting what I wrote differently. When I interpret things from the perspective you describe, I think I agree with much of it. You may have noticed how I wrote "our inventiveness" and not just "inventiveness"; through the blind process of trial and error that is evolution, life itself seems quite inventive. But I would like to draw your attention towards a few points.

Neither chimps nor rats are our ancestors and, even if they were, they would be far from our earliest ancestors; even earlier ancestors were fish and I'd like to see a fish teaching a human sign language to its offspring. I don't think our ability to create new stuff is something we inherit from our earliest ancestors; as a physiological trait with a complex underlying cellular structure, it has probably been gained through genetic variation during the course of our evolution, most likely in the latter part (simply because, in evolutionary terms, complexity is a function of time).

I am not sure the ability of chimpanzees to learn, from us, a sign language and propagate it to their offspring is an indication that they share our inventiveness; it more likely reflects their ability to understand and reproduce (not produce) abstract notions. If they shared our ability to produce those abstract notions, I would expect chimps to be making up their own sign language, not learning one invented by humans. And they might as well be inventing cars, computers, particle accelerators, space stations... chimp culture does not seem to have changed much in the last five million years (except for recent changes induced by human beings) but human culture has changed drastically in only 50,000 years or so. That cultural change might be related to our ability to create things that our surroundings lack, and I am not sure, from the little evidence I have been able to gather, that chimps share the same ability. But they might; please don't trust me as a source.

Although they do seem to display an ability to understand information that resembles our own (with far simpler notions; try using sign languages to teach a chimpanzee the concept of enthropy). However, our ability to understand information that we gather through our senses and our ability to produce information that we do not gather through our senses are not necessarily the same ability; chimps able to understand do not necessarily imply inventive chimps. When I try to think of an inventive chimp, Leonardo da Vinci and similar people spring to mind. And I mean no offence towards the memory of the great artist when I refer to him using the name of my closest non-human cousins, what I find saddening is how his name has been recently linked to a modern myth about an ancient myth; I hope the link is not permanent.

Regarding rats, I have no doubt that they are clever little things, but being able to survive alongside human beings does not seem to me the most useful indicator for inventiveness or even for the ability to understand stuff. Many trees have survived alongside human beings and rats for ages, but they are terrible at exiting mazes and they express very little creativity; last time I checked the annual exhibition of modern art made by trees, they hadn't had the first one yet. It may be true that, discounting humans, rats are among the most inventive "creatures" on the planet (although not technically creatures due to the lack of a creator) but human beings are inventive at a whole different level. How many times have you seen a rat devise a lab experiment to study humans?

If you'd like my opinion regarding an example of non-human inventiveness, but not necessarily the best example, I'd say ants. Each individual ant has a very simple brain, unlikely to share with us even our ability to understand stuff. But through cooperative collectives of ants, their genes are able to build things like air-conditioned chambers. Ants display some degree of inventiveness, but it is unlikely that we inherit our inventiveness from them, because ants are not our ancestors and their inventiveness relies on a completely different mechanism.

Do you see the distinction I am trying to make? I didn't say that human beings are the only creative species; I said we are "possibly the most creative species", leaving room for other creative species. And I didn't say that the ability to invent new stuff, in general, did not appear before our species; I said "in our evolutionary branch". Do you think it is impossible that hominids. prior to some mutant H. sapiens born some time around the end of the Middle Paleolithic, were able to understand the notions they learned through accidental discoveries but unable to make new notions up? I am not claiming that that is certainly the case, I am simply asking whether it is not possible.

In any case, I'm not trying to disagree with you, I'm just not sure about a few details. But I thank you for some very interesting remarks, kim, and I apologise, rampant.a.i., for taking up your thread.

Have fun, everyone!
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30-05-2014, 07:45 PM
God is imaginary by definition.
Some excellent, very well thought out replies in this thread. Thank you. Living thing, when I mean by "exist outside of space time" is that concepts are "immortal" in the sense that once they are recorded, they transcend time. We can pull concepts from throughout human history, contrast and refine them.

You can imagine the history of life without the constraint of actual time, or imagine objects that can't exist in 3 dimensional space, or remember dead relatives and relive experiences.

I really should have said they're independent of space time.

In a way, the God concept is a way of conceptualizing the entire human race as a collective hive mind that also mirrors our collective understanding of the cosmos, and how we define ourselves in relation to the cosmos, in a sort of Hegelian dialectic.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes
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30-05-2014, 09:32 PM
RE: God is imaginary by definition.
(30-05-2014 07:45 PM)rampant.a.i. Wrote:  Some excellent, very well thought out replies in this thread. Thank you. Living thing, when I mean by "exist outside of space time" is that concepts are "immortal" in the sense that once they are recorded, they transcend time. We can pull concepts from throughout human history, contrast and refine them.

I think what he meant was that a concept is only a concept when interpreted by a mind. Once the concept is recorded, it is merely a code. It is just recorded information (which can exist for indefinite periods of time). However it is only when that information is then decoded and interpreted through the mind that it then becomes the intended concept.

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

~ Umberto Eco
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