Truth, God, and the Sun Rise: Karl Popper

popper-smA friend of mine, Twinkle, whom I know through Second Life, made a nice response to my last post, The Absolute Nature of Uncertainty pt. 2.  As is my unfortunate nature, I got a little long winded in my response, so I decided to make a separate article out of it.  I hope that she does not take offense to it, as absolutely none is intended.  I just felt that my response helps to give a clearer idea of the General Uncertainty Principle (see the bottom of this link).


Twinkle: Popper said that nothing is true if you can’t prove its opposite.

Having done extensive research into Karl Popper (i.e. having skimmed the Wikipedia article article about him), I believe that he is skating along the edges of the General Uncertainty Principle without completely identifying it as such, and is thus making mistakes in interpretation. If I am reading the article correctly, I believe that what Popper said is that no amount of evidence can prove that something is true, but a single example of its opposite can disprove it. I.e., no amount of instances of sun rising will prove that the sun will rise tomorrow, but a single instance of the sun not rising will disprove the idea that the sun always rises.

Again, the concept that NOTHING is provable beyond unreasonable doubt comes in. Popper seems to be toying with the principle of proof beyond ALL possible doubt, which I’ve demonstrated as an impossibility.

So, that the sun always rises is provable beyond reasonable doubt, and is therefore true (depending upon one’s definition of truth).  It is not, however, proof beyond unreasonable doubt. If the sun does not rise tomorrow, it merely demonstrates that an unreasonable assumption proved to be the correct one.

Twinkle: So, if you can reckon what’s God’s opposite and prove it exists, you’re done with your theory :)

So on to God. Firstly, it depends on how one defines “truth”. Absolute truth is unknowable by the General Uncertainty Principle. General truth I define as something proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Secondly, God’s opposite depends on what definition of God you prefer. If one accepts the definition of God as a supernatural being that created the universe, then, according to Popper, to prove that God is true requires that there exists no proof of its opposite, a universe created by completely natural processes.

I would submit that we have come a long way to proving our universe is created by completely natural processes beyond reasonable doubt.  In fact, by definition, science cannot use supernatural explanations, as science holds them by definition to be beyond reason and unprovable.  By the nature of science, a supernatural God is, definitionally, ruled out as an explanation.

This is not to say that science could not demonstrate strong evidence of the supernatural.  If, for example, prayer were proven to increase the likelihood of survival of  people undergoing open heart surgery, then we would have little choice but to conclude that something supernatural was indeed happening (alternative explanations, such as alien intervention, could be determined to be less likely via Occam’s Razor.)  Incidentally, this very experiment has indeed been conducted, in fact, and the results indicated that prayer did nothing to improve chances of survival.  This result proves almost nothing, for reasons that I’m not going to go into for time’s sake.

If this is a bias of science, then it is an absolutely necessary one.  Proof of natural processes cannot be found if we constantly throw “goddidit” into every unknown.

Therefore, if one (not unreasonably) redefines “truth” by throwing in the possibility of the unreasonable, then “truth” can never be proven.

What seems “reasonable” to me is that if God exists, He clearly does NOT want us to demonstrate his existence through our study of the natural world.

Twinkle: But at the end…does it really matter?

Well, in the “end”, it certainly DOES matter, as it could mean the difference between eternal hellfire and torture; 70+ virgins in assorted colors and flavors; or becoming worm food.

But I’m just playing and I know what sense you meant this in. And in the sense you meant it, then I would say no, it doesn’t matter in the least.

Twinkle: I’ve had so much proof of humanity’s evilness that I am positive that Love is somewhere out there…or maybe just inside myself… A secret recipe for serenity ;)

As to evil, mankind is imperfect and suffers from many mental illnesses and brainwashing resulting from unreasonable arguments. Hitler very likely had a mental illnesses (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and who the hell knows what that mustard gas did to him). Whether these illnesses are in anyway treatable does not change this fact. When what we perceive as evil is in fact something that is beyond the conscious control of a mentally ill mind, can we truly call it evil?

This is not to say that Hitler wasn’t a nasty, dangerous son-of-a-bitch who needed to be killed far, far earlier then he actually was.

So evil is definitional. Love? I have no doubt of it. Love, too, is definitional, but “generally” doesn’t follow under anyone’s definition of mental illness. Most people have love within them. This is a statement of faith on my part.

And if you could more clearly express your secret recipe, I would greatly appreciate it. 🙂




4 thoughts on “Truth, God, and the Sun Rise: Karl Popper

  1. hi alphonsus,

    just wanted to let you know i´m still around. went on a camping/hiking trip this weekend.

    i posted, i think you saw, on the texas b.o.ed. vs evolution, but only to get the reaction of those “top conservatives on twitter.” so far only one response; and that on twitter. that´s ok. i know i´m a fairly rare bird.

    i stand by what i said when i first contacted you. you have a great way of communicating and i enjoy what you write. i also respect your opinions and responses to mine. don´t really know why i´m telling you that. just thought you should know.

    it was a funny joke you made about doing extensive research by skimming wikipedia. you have a good sense of humor.

    i don´t know what to think about the general uncertainty principle, but i do believe in truth. of course one could say there is no absolute truth, or that it is unknowable as long as there is the expectation of its failure, but i hear you speak quite regularly of faith. no small thing, faith, but, i truly believe it is only as good as the object it is placed in. men can (and have) come up with definitions for many things. boundaries and rules concerning what is and is not; what can and cannot be or be done or known. so, if man says science cannot use supernatural explanations does that mean it is truth? can man also define the boundaries of one´s faith? and if they do, is that definition true? keep in mind these are the same fallable, imperfect, often mentally ill men who wrote those 66 books many discredit for that very implication.

    no argument. no instigation of anything. i´m just thinking with my fingers about this post of yours. i guess it´s in the nature of being agnostic wherein these questions and doubts and lie. and i guess there´s nothing wrong with questions and doubts. we all have them. the one question i like to ask myself is, “why do i accept this as truth, and not that?”

    i guess i realized long ago, just because it´s popular, doesn´t make it right. and the converse is also true; just because it´s unpopular doesen´t make it wrong. so, i question everything and try to make sense out of it based on whatever evidence is available.

    i guess it´s true that, long ago, i was somehow (though i honestly don´t know how) influenced to believe there is a creator and that i am part of his creation. i can´t say that had any meaning beyond that when it was first introduced to me. but, as there was nothing about it that seemed irrational, the seed was planted and took root. i´ve resisted that kind of thinking to some extent, but, in the end, and after much thought and study, i chose to put my faith in that unknowable truth. unknowable, but not irrational. not if one considers the object (or evidence for that object) of his faith.

    just that. hope it´s somewhat coherent. i realize it´s basically philisophical and without reference, but, like i said, just thought you should hear my thoughts.



  2. Tell the Count how you determine whether effects are supernatural or psychological. For instance, someone prays to
    have an operation suceed. It does. What is proved here, what has happened here, except that a belief system has been reinforced and medical science has succeeded again? Is more called for? Set aside categories like agnostic, Christian, atheistic, etc. can one speak simply without all this baggage, signage, and dead men’s thoughts?
    This is a most interesting blog. My best. Count Sneaky

  3. > By the nature of science, a supernatural God is, definitionally, ruled out as an explanation.

    By “nature of science” I assume you mean by Popper’s view. You are completely correct. However, by the same standard any claim that God did NOT create the universe is also ruled out. Neither claim is falsifiable, thus neither is scientific.

    You assert there’s little doubt that “universe is created by completely natural processes.” Not only is it not right; it’s not even wrong. Cosmologists currently hold that all of matter, motion, time — in other words, nature — came into existence as a result of the Big Bang. What kind of “natural process” created nature? How can we understand laws of nature to operate before time and motion? See there, I used the word “before.” We can’t even find words to talk about “before time.” Hmm, maybe something exists outside of nature…?

  4. Hi, firstly, I enjoyed this wee article. But felt the need to add my two bit.

    You say Nature can be explained by completely natural processes, so my response is where are you getting the evidence for that?

    Let’s start from the beginning – The Big Bang. No one knows how the universe itself began, only that it began to exist. There is no reason, nor evidence to suggest it was merely natural processes, because by using the term Nature, we are merely saying that the Universe (which is Nature) created itself. It’s just as reasonable to posit that A Deity created Nature.

    Now considering life – if we espouse that life can be explained by natural processes, through the medium of evolution by natural selection, we confuse the process of originating cause, for mechanism. Evolution did not create life, it is the mechanism by which life evolved. We don’t know how life began, so it’s every bit as reasonable to posit, that A Deity brought life into existence.

    My point is there is no evidence for either the naturalist, or the supernaturalist. It’s not a scientific question, but rather a metaphysical one. Science has not the means, or methodology explain first causes.

    And I. touched you use the term reason as the human means that gives science validity. But I would like to point out an interesting point about reason. Thomas Hobbes, perhaps gives reason the best explanation, it is the thing that can differentiate between alternatives. It allows us to add, subtract, to understand this things as being apart from that thing. In short it enables us to differentiate between alternatives. So at its heart, reason must by definition, must presuppose freedom as it’s modus operandi. And freedom itself is not a scientific mode, but metaphysical.

    And if we are to accept that all of Nature can be explained by natural processes, then we must further get past the problem of thinking atoms. If Nature is
    As the materialist believes it to be, random variations. Then the mind is as much a part of that process. If it is all merely random, and is itself, meaningless, then I wonder why would we ever accept Reason or it’s tools i.e. The scientific method for example, as leading to any sort of ‘truths’. Why should we trust reason as somehow attaining to meaning, if the universe is to be understood as meaningless. If all is chaos, void of meaning, and purely coincidental – why should a thinking agent (if that even means anything) ever accept reason (a metaphysical proposition) as ever attaining to the level of meaning?

    Just some thoughts…

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