Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What is Inside of the Box?

"We will never know whether or not God actually exists," is a phrase I have heard time and time again while discussing my search for truth. Here is why I think this is a ridiculous statement!

Ok. Jim has a box that Larry cannot see into, and there may or may not be a marker inside of the box. Now Jim has a question for Larry: "Is there a marker inside of the box?"

Larry certainly can't tell me whether or not there is a marker in the box right now, because he can't see into the box. Jim decides to try to figure out whether or not there is a marker in the box, but Larry tells him "it is impossible to know whether or not there is a marker inside of the box."

This is an extremely prideful statement for Larry to make. Saying that he knows that it is impossible to know, would be to say that he has already ruled out every past, present, and future method for determining whether or not there is a marker inside of the box. How does Larry know that it is impossible, if he hasn't even made an honest attempt at the possible methods for finding out.

You know what? I think that Larry is lazy and just wants to stay in his comfort zone. His life is simple and figured out based off of what he currently thinks about this devious marker, and questioning his belief would force more questions.

It is far easier to say that it is impossible as an excuse to not try. Unfortunately, Larry would have to have already exhausted every methodology to determine that it is, indeed, impossible to know.

Here are a few things that we thought were impossible to know in the past:

  • How to create vaccines
  • How to build prosthetic limbs
  • How to send a man to the moon
  • What the atomic structure of water is
  • How many membranes certain types of bacteria have

If Larry had been asked about these things 1000 years ago, and said "it is impossible to know," he would have been very wrong.

Now, it is possible for there to be things that are impossible for us to know about. For example, did Napoleon spit in a pond on the third day of June while he was 19 years old thinking about how much he likes good wine and cheese? This, probably is impossible to know, unless we develop time travel and ask him.

But if something really is impossible to know about, is it worth it to bet your life on something you can't know about?


  1. Having searched for decades, my conclusion is that it is impossible at this time to know if a higher power as definded by any religion exists; we have to measure it to comprehend it, and I'm not sure anyone knows exactly what to measure or would agree on it if someone did have a clue about what to measure and how. So, I think it depends on the individual making the statement "It is impossible to know if there is a god" that adds weight to the statement.

    1. Hi Mel!
      I think you are correct. The person making the statement absolutely makes a difference! This post was largely inspired by religious people who knew little to nothing about arguments for or against God's existence. I think that they claim that it is impossible to know so that they can stay within their comfort zones. Perhaps they are simply to lazy to search. I think we would both agree that people such as these have no right to make such a claim!


  2. What sort of people make this claim, Josh?

    The reason I ask is that the claim that "we will never know whether or not God actually exists" seems to say one of three things: god doesn't exist, deism is true or something fancy about the nature of knowledge.

    If it's the last of these, then it is based on what people mean by "knowledge". If we allow a less strict definition of the term "know", such that a high probably of something being true means it's true, then I'd have thought that we could conceptially arrive at an answer.

    If it's one of the first two, then the claim is just pointing to the fact that the god hypothesis is unfalsifiable. Science can, and does, chip away at secondary claims that X, Y and Z are impossible without god, but the effect of this is merely to make a theist god more like a deist god - less and less involved in the day-to-day operations of the universe.

    I suspect that this claim is often made by secular people, rather than believers ... if it's made by believers, they are hanging onto their faith by little more than a couple of threads.

    1. I was inspired to write this post by people who are religious, know little or nothing about arguments for or against God's existence, and claim 'it is impossible to know' to avoid searching. Statements I have heard include, "If there were an answer wouldn't everyone have found it already?" "It's just a faith thing," and "There is no way to know if God exists, so just believe in Jesus because he feels right."

      That is the type of person I was responding to with this post! Thus, I would agree with you that they are hanging on to their faith by a few threads.

      An argument could be made that we will never know 100% whether or not God exists. I am for examining the evidence and then choosing the most likely option. Still being in the evidence phase myself, I have decided what to think yet. But I do think it is possible to know, or at least find a 'best' answer.