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Proof of God?
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2009 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TFBW wrote:
I think the onus is now on you to demonstrate that you have a better rational basis for assenting to the hypothesis that God is not personal than I do for taking the contrary view.

I am still struggling with this. More to the point, while "fairness" dictates indeed that we should bring arguments against arguments, I still have the deep feeling that the best argument is the absence of evidence.

This is of course coming back to our unfinished discussion about Occam's Razor.

Let me first explicitly explain the situation as I see it:
  1. It is by definition not possible to prove the absence of something that cannot be measured (see intangible unicorns), unless this something is logically impossible (e.g. circular square).
  2. The presence of a God which does not act in any measurable way is therefore not distinguishable from its absence. "God" is also not logically impossible.
  3. Therefore either we can measure God's action (e.g. proofs/evidence as discussed in the previous post), or the existence of God cannot be proven nor disproven.
  4. In absence of proof or evidence for God's existence, the principle of Simplicity advises us to take as working hypothesis that God does not exist.
From this I think that in my position, I am not supposed to bring evidence or argument besides saying (and argumenting, ultimately if possible proving) that the presence of a personal God is not necessary to explain our present situation and observations, i.e. that any observation may be explained without divine intervention.

Of course, the point (4) above will probably be the point where some will not agree. Let me explain what the use of the principle of simplicity is, and why it is reasonable to use it:

We are in presence of two theories, T1 and T2 to explain our observations (about the events we see and live, in short about the universe U).
T1, the "atheist" theory, states that everything can be explained using the natural laws N. Therefore U = T1(N).
T2, the "theist" theory, states that we need a God, G, to explain everything. But they do not disagree that there are natural laws also that plays a role (e.g. gravity), hence U = T2(G, N). If God made the natural laws, it may become U = T2(G, N(G)).

Assuming for the moment, we have no facts that can be exclusively explained using T2, which theory should we choose? We are not targeting at "Truth" here, because we have seen above (3) that the presence of a God which has no measurable effect cannot be proven true nor false. We are targeting at furthering our understanding.

In both theories, I will have to investigate N (or N(G)) in order to understand natural laws, may they be accidental or created by a God. In both cases, I may need to make assumptions about N. In this regards, the two theories are equivalent.

If I choose the simplest theory T1, I can explain everything without having to make any further hypothesis about G. This is easier and more effective, for instance in order to verify assumptions about N. Moreover it will also be easier to falsify T1 then a theory with one more degree of liberty. In essence, I can say that T1 has more chances to be wrong, hence it is the theory where I have the most chance of learning something new (that it is wrong).

If I choose T2, I begin by having to make many further assumptions about G which is not directly measurable. These extra assumption will murken the field and therefore using T2 will make it difficult to learn something more about the natural laws N. Then I will not be able to falsify T2 easily, because the extra degree of freedom will always allow to explain everything by changing the (unmeasured) assumptions about G. So using T2 will make it more difficult to assess the sheer validity of T1 and T2.

For these reason, I restate (4) that it is reasonable to take as working hypothesis theory T1, the atheist theory. It is reasonable to keep T1 until proven wrong, in which case T2 will become the simplest theory to explain all the facts of U.

Practically, what does it mean?
It means we should consider that there is not God, and search for events/observations that cannot be explained within T1.
Of course, we might be able to explain many things within T1 (which is not so well defined as we actually don't know all the natural laws N). So if there are many events that may be explained by T1 but only with a long stretch of imagination, then at some point we may consider T1 as too battered to be plausible, and switch to T2 without having found a formal event that T1 cannot explain.

Therefore the next step is to try to bring evidence that T1 is not a sufficient theory. Not to try to show (which I deem impossible as many hypothesis can be done on G, down to T1 = T2 by postulating an apathetic God) that T2 is wrong...

TFBW wrote:
Those who wanted "proof of God" in the first place, take note: it was a big ask, but not big enough.
How right you are, Brett Confused The present step is big one, which covers a "personal God interested in us", sort of. This is the basics that (I guess) most religions agree on. Then we come really in the realms of the different religions and may (after the party because we came that far) open a new thread about religions Twisted Evil
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Leorobin
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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is easier indeed to proof that something is or isn't wrong. At least that's my experience with demonstrations.
Just to recapitulate, so far we have the general consensus (I think) that there's indeed a force or something like it superior than us, call it how you want to call it.
The discussion so far is based on if there's or isn't enough evidence to support it. As Scott said
Quote:
Not by faith. But by something more tangible?
. So we have logical evidence so far and faith.

Now a question that's been nagging me: Is it possible to state irrefutable evidence on the case at hand? More especifically "tangible" evidence.
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leorobin wrote:
Now a question that's been nagging me: Is it possible to state irrefutable evidence on the case at hand? More especifically "tangible" evidence.


I guess the answer (sorry to be obvious - but wanted to write it once clearly) is that you can get tangible evidence of a God that acts tangibly... And, you won't be able to get any evidence for (or against) a God that does not, but for instance only observes (remember the intangible unicorns).
So we can stop any discussion about such an apathetic God as we will not get any meaningful info. Let's concentrate on a God which makes (or did make) tangible acts - i.e. the Hypothesis we work on (and look for tangible evidence of) is a God which acts from outside of the universe on the natural universe.

So the only thing we can do is to list all the things and events that apparently may be evidence for an act from outside of the universe (i.e. supernatural), and analyse them for possible natural cause. If we do find no (likely) natural causes, then we can consider it evidence of the existence of a supernatural intervention (but not proof as we don't understand fully what natural acts can do), and draw consequences.

This is typically what we did with the first cause. We considered a fact (the universe exists) and could not think of any natural way to begin the universe (because each natural cause should be the effect of a previous cause and this does not allow for a beginning). Therefore we deemed that the existence of the universe is evidence that there was (at that time at least) a supernatural force to start it all. This does not stricto sensu proves the existence of a supernatural force, because we may just be flawed in our thinking and there may be another, natural, explanation; but our looking for alternatives and not finding them reinforce our willingness to believe based on this evidence.

We can even characterise this force: it is able to start a universe. It did start a universe, so either it had the will to do so, or it was necessary for it (given an eternity); finally it must be uncaused (as it is the end of the causation chain) - hence uncreated.

Our job now is to find more evidence in order to keep refining the characterisation of the God, to ultimately try to answer some questions like:
- Is it a "it", or a "he/she" (= does it/He has a will and a conscience)
- Does He expect something from us humans?
- What does He expects from us?
- What would be His reaction if we do or do not fulfill His expectations?
- Do I want (i.e. is it rational for me to try) to fulfill His expectations?
- How should I manage my life to fulfill His expectations?

As I mentioned earlier, we may not find black and white strong evidence, but may find enough elements which require bending our credulity about natural laws to such an extent to explain them that a bundle of weak evidence will grow large enough to found a willingness to believe based on it. Thus we will have a willingness to believe in a more and more complete image of God (the "image" that comes out of the characterisation we can do), up to believing perhaps in a God with all the characteristics as described by monotheist religions.

That will probably happen at different times and more or less completely for each of us, depending on their earlier beliefs and thoughts. For instance I am sold out to the first cause - i.e. I believe in a supernatural "thingy" - while some other people may need more evidence to make this step. Others may already believe in (for instance) a personal God so won't need new evidence to come much further than I am.

Let me illustrate by proposing a second stone - I cannot remember if it was already discussed in this thread:
Let's assume that we (and other humans at least) have free-will,
If we cannot find any way to combine free-will with the causal natural laws, then we must consider that there is a supernatural force allowing us to act against the causality chain.

This would complements my "description" of the first cause a bit:
* This force does still exist
* It can do more than "just" creating universes in absence of causes - it allows to break causality (i.e. acts against causes)
* This force is in "relation" with each human (at least), that can "use" its potential.

This is a proposed topic for the next posts - I did not "prove" the existence of free-will, nor "prove" that free-will is incompatible with causality. I drew only some consequences as illustration.

I hope somebody will take the ball anddiscuss free-will. Alternatively, you may aim to bringing further "facts" which cannot be explained within the natural laws (that will be always a first discussion), and their consequences on the "credible" characterization of God.
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moderator's note: a discussion relating to "free will" ensued at this point. It has been relocated here.
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Gully Foyle
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As an avowed atheist, I will answer the question posted by the OP to my satisfaction. The only thing that will get me to acknowledge the existence of a deity (belif will have gone out the window) will be tangible proof, it will not have to be direct proof, just of sufficient quantity, quality and from a reliable source. I will also accept a reasoned arguement which gives an unimpeachable statement for the existence of the aforementioned deity (however, having been in the Catholic church for 25 years, and actually getting a rounded grounding in other religions, I find the receipt of such an arguement unlikely).

Personally the most overt form of a Deity that I could possibly imagine being plausible is the Spinozan philosophy of a pantheistic deity, which is inherent and indistingusihable from the sum total of the universe, an idea I feel is very close to my personal religious belief (I take the view that as i have proof of neither the existence nor non-existence of a deity that athiesm is ans much religuous belief system as say Christianity).

A lovely little story about theories and proof can be found at http://www.samueljohnson.com/refutati.html.

P.S. Like Constable Dorfl in Feet of Clay, I will not take being struck by lightning as being proof of a deity's existence.
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2009 1:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gully Foyle wrote:
The only thing that will get me to acknowledge the existence of a deity (belif will have gone out the window) will be tangible proof, it will not have to be direct proof, just of sufficient quantity, quality and from a reliable source.

I suspect that everyone would be satisfied with this. I am yet to be convinced that it is possible for anything to satisfy the "tangible proof" requirement, however. Exactly what set of circumstances and tangible substances could prove God's existence to a sceptic?
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ANTIcarrot
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ssava wrote:
Has anyone been able to prove the existence of a supreme being yet?
Not by faith. But by something more tangible?
No. Wink

The best theory we have is that the universe works like mindless souless clockwork - even if some of it is rather bendy clockwork that we don't entirely understand yet.

Our modern conceptions of god can be traced back to various religions which all make specific claims about how god interacts with the world. Most of which can be tested. All of which have failed. Many of them also make claims that are logically impossible. The majority of most religious texts can be shown to be plagerism of earlier work, or simple common sense (and some dumb ideas) which can be traced back to evolutionary psychology. None of what's left ('Book of Revalations' for example) would be taken seriously if written today.

TFBW wrote:
Exactly what set of circumstances and tangible substances could prove God's existence to a sceptic?
This is the other problem. Any being even 1/(10^100)th as powerful as god is supposed to be, could easily warp our senses to see whatever they wanted. At that point we ccould no longer trust the outcome of our tests. and without tests there can be no proof. The kind of VR present in the Matrix isn't that far away (100 years at most probably) so we will be able to pull this off quite soon. When the magnitude of uncertainty is greater than the magnitude of certainty, proof becomes impossible.

So science tells us not only that god almost certainly does not exist, but that if he did exist, it would be impossible to prove it! Laughing
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ANTIcarrot wrote:
So science tells us not only that god almost certainly does not exist, but that if he did exist, it would be impossible to prove it!

Your conclusion is inconsistent. If it is impossible to prove the existence of God due to the ambiguity of all possible evidence, then it is also logically impossible to prove the nonexistence of God due to the very same ambiguity. This alone tells us that we have no better evidence for the existence of God than we do for the contrary, so your first statement, that science tells us "that god almost certainly does not exist", is wrong.

What you have discovered, rather, is that the innate ambiguity of evidence makes it possible to hold a seemingly coherent view of the world without a God. The coherence itself does not provide evidence of its truth, because it's just as possible to construct a coherent view of the world in which there is a God. The atheists often promote the superiority of their view on the grounds that it dispenses with a wholly unnecessary element: God. The theists often promote the superiority of their view on the grounds that it is more coherent with many beliefs held even by atheists: notions of free will, first cause, consciousness, morality, and so on. Atheists can either deny the reality of these things, or attempt to incorporate them into an atheistic model of the universe. The difficulties involved in either of these alternatives tend to undo the alleged advantage of dispensing with God.

The majority of mind-share in scientific circles at the moment tends towards materialism or physicalism: what you might call "functional atheism" -- behave like an atheist for the purposes of doing science, even if you believe in a God. This hasn't always been the case: far from it, in fact. Many of the great scientists have been devoted theists and saw no reason to remove God from their thinking in order to achieve what they achieved.

Science tells us precisely nothing about the existence of God. Science can tell us that the universe is a marvellous place, but we can just as readily lay the credit for the marvel at the feet of God, or at the feet of Nature herself. Perhaps there comes a point where the sheer awesomeness of the universe ought to compel us to believe that this must be the work of a frighteningly awesome God, but that's not a decision on which science itself can advise us. It can reveal the awesomeness, but it can not tell us how we ought to respond to it.
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Garwain
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some stone cold facts about religion:

1. Religion is created by men, seeking answer to questions logic can't solve. Men can live with the answer and are reassured. Faith fills the gaps, that's a fact.
2. Religion is organised in order to organise society. A fair bit of simple rules should keep everybody inline. The Fear of the 'Supreme Being' is what should keep you conform what everybody else calls 'Normal'.

To conclude: There is no God, but we created it so that we could use it to frighten evil wrongdoers.

Darn... I used the term Evil. Now I have to explain that as well....

Evil is short-term self-enrichment of a person or group.
Good is the long-term group-enrichment for all of us. Efficient in the long run, but not as rewarding as Evil in short terms.

Now I can conclude: There is no God, we created it as a tool to keep our society efficient.
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Leorobin
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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 3:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I noticed I dissapeared after that last post of mine...thanks lacavin, a bit overdue but...

Garwain, it is true that you could call the two items you mentioned as facts. Still, with even a brief overall view to the whole topic, you would have noticed this have already been discussed in one way or another and that both have proved to be inconclusive regarding the existence or absence of God.

'Good and Evil' are also discussed somewhere as well as in another topic.
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ANTIcarrot
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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TFBW wrote:
ANTIcarrot wrote:
So science tells us not only that god almost certainly does not exist, but that if he did exist, it would be impossible to prove it!

Your conclusion is inconsistent. If it is impossible to prove the existence of God due to the ambiguity of all possible evidence, then it is also logically impossible to prove the nonexistence of God due to the very same ambiguity.
No. Because we come back to historical records which demonstrate that the god theory is ultimately the sum total of many fictional stories. There is no requirement to prove that god is not real, any more than there is need to prove that the starship enterprise is not real. Based upon statistical information 99.9999999%+ of all fictional characters are not real. Thus saying that god almost certainly does not exist is not only justified but also extremely generous.

Secondly, you're assuming both theories are equally valid. This is nonsense. Next week I will or will not win the lottery. It's an either or situation. But the overwhelming likelihood is that I will not. The fact that I cannot in any way prove the outcome does not change the odds.

Quote:
What you have discovered, rather, is that the innate ambiguity of evidence makes it possible to hold a seemingly coherent view of the world without a God.
I'll level with you. I'm an engineer. My criteria for real is very simple. If an idea is real/true you can use it to build something useful. What is the god theory good for, even theoretically, assuming it is true?

And just to be clear, I wasn't talking about holding an opinion. I was stating cold hard logical fact that if god was real, and appeared in front of you, then there is absolutely no way it could prove it was god, and not merely much more powerful than you. In fact the more powerful the being the ore impossible verification becomes. You might choose to believe anyway, but scientific evidence would be impossible.
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TFBW
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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2010 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ANTIcarrot wrote:
...we come back to historical records which demonstrate that the god theory is ultimately the sum total of many fictional stories. There is no requirement to prove that god is not real, any more than there is need to prove that the starship enterprise is not real.

It's hard to respond to this without being snide, because it's awfully dismissive. Seriously, how am I supposed to construct an argument against someone who implies that belief in God is as silly as belief in the Star Ship Enterprise? I think you've grossly underestimated the difficulty of the question, but I'm at a loss as to how I might explain the problem to you.

ANTIcarrot wrote:
Secondly, you're assuming both theories are equally valid. This is nonsense. Next week I will or will not win the lottery. It's an either or situation. But the overwhelming likelihood is that I will not. The fact that I cannot in any way prove the outcome does not change the odds.

Lotteries are games with known probabilistic outcomes. God isn't. He either exists or he does not. If you think the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of the non-existence of God, then let's talk specific evidence.

ANTIcarrot wrote:
I'll level with you. I'm an engineer. My criteria for real is very simple. If an idea is real/true you can use it to build something useful. What is the god theory good for, even theoretically, assuming it is true?

Winston Churchill is a former Prime Minister of England. This is a true statement about reality, and generally well known, but I doubt it will ever help you build something useful. Similarly, knowing whether God exists will not help you directly within any of the traditional engineering disciplines. This says more about the narrowness of those disciplines than it does about the usefulness of knowing God. If you happen to be interested in things like life, fulfilment, happiness, morality, and other non-engineering things, you may find the question of God's existence to be of some relevance.

ANTIcarrot wrote:
I was stating cold hard logical fact that if god was real, and appeared in front of you, then there is absolutely no way it could prove it was god, and not merely much more powerful than you.

On this point, at least, we can agree. The thing that still confuses me, however, is that you imply the evidence points overwhelmingly against the existence of God. You've just showed that the strongest imaginable evidence for the existence of God would leave you unimpressed, so why are you so confident the evidence all points the other way? What are the big give-aways that indicate the non-existence of God?
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ANTIcarrot wrote:
This is the other problem. Any being even 1/(10^100)th as powerful as god is supposed to be, could easily warp our senses to see whatever they wanted. At that point we ccould no longer trust the outcome of our tests. and without tests there can be no proof. The kind of VR present in the Matrix isn't that far away (100 years at most probably) so we will be able to pull this off quite soon. When the magnitude of uncertainty is greater than the magnitude of certainty, proof becomes impossible.
So science tells us not only that god almost certainly does not exist, but that if he did exist, it would be impossible to prove it! Laughing


This depends of course of your definition of God. If you define God properly using some qualities that are minimal requirements, than you can check for those requirements and if it fits, it is God according to your definition. Even if it is not the most powerful guy around.

Say if I find a guy that can create something from nothing (even a cup of tea), cure any sickness and even death, and provide an eternity of bliss after death, I guess I'll be happy to consider him a God, whatever He is (I remain free to adore Him or not, of course).

Of course a powerful being may be able to fake any result of investigation, but then I can do easier and drug you to indoctrinate you, it's cheaper... ultimately, you are going back to the notion that we cannot know nothing because our senses may betray us - possible, but unuseful proposition, we can just go back to bed as with that nothing at all can be proven. You state in a further post that you are an engineer, so you should not wish to use such un-efficient propositions, i.e. theories that do not allow to act!

TFBW wrote:
Your conclusion is inconsistent. If it is impossible to prove the existence of God due to the ambiguity of all possible evidence, then it is also logically impossible to prove the nonexistence of God due to the very same ambiguity. This alone tells us that we have no better evidence for the existence of God than we do for the contrary, so your first statement, that science tells us "that god almost certainly does not exist", is wrong.


I don't fully agree. It may be possible to prove a negative but not the positive. For instance if you search a certain person with red hair, it is easy to prove that I am not this person - my hair are not red. But when you find dozens of people with red-hair, you don't know which one is the right one without further information. By extension, if I look for a specific person with (naturally) green hair and mental powers, I may prove that this person does not exist by looking all humans on earth and finding nobody with green hairs, even if I would not be able to prove the existence of this specific person if I found many with green hairs and if he would hide his mental powers.

However, for all practical purposes, I agree with you that science tells us mostly nothing about the existence of God.

Leorobin wrote:
I noticed I dissapeared after that last post of mine...thanks lacavin, a bit overdue but...


So I did as well, as discussion went slow... you are welcome, even if I guess my answer was not that helpful...

ANTIcarrot wrote:
Secondly, you're assuming both theories are equally valid. This is nonsense. Next week I will or will not win the lottery. It's an either or situation. But the overwhelming likelihood is that I will not. The fact that I cannot in any way prove the outcome does not change the odds.


This has been discussed higher already, in some forms. While I agree with you that both "theories" I will win the lottery and I will not win the lottery have different probabilities, you cannot infer that one of those theories is false. Therefore you cannot use your arguments to prove that you will not win the lottery, or that God does not exist.

However, you can use your arguments to draw your own conclusions about how you want to live your life in the absence of proof. You may be interested in the thread about Pascal's Wager for more on this topic.

ANTIcarrot wrote:
I'll level with you. I'm an engineer. My criteria for real is very simple. If an idea is real/true you can use it to build something useful. What is the god theory good for, even theoretically, assuming it is true?


hmmm... well, if you assume (for the sake of discussion) that God exists and that He is as described e.g. in the christian Bible, than you better pay lip service to Him to avoid eternal Hell Confused. So the God theory is quite useful to save your immortal soul, isn't it?
This theory might not be very useful for building a solid bridge, or making a new drug, but it is certainly critical for all of us, as a mortal life is short compared to an eternal afterlife Twisted Evil.

TFBW wrote:
If you happen to be interested in things like life, fulfilment, happiness, morality, and other non-engineering things, you may find the question of God's existence to be of some relevance.


I second that! Good formulation!
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lacavin
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Guest post above is from me, sorry, I was logged out after this long absence...
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Leorobin
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have yet to formulate a reply that satisfies me enough for the thread. Still, I found this strip while browsing my usual share of webcomics, I found curious how it relates to our topic of discussion.
[URL="http://www.calamitiesofnature.com/archive/?c=382"]
[/URL]
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leorobin wrote:
Still, I found this strip while browsing my usual share of webcomics, I found curious how it relates to our topic of discussion.

Indeed it does. The more so even with the Free-will thread for quantum effects Smile
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