As a side issue in an earlier topic and by looking at the topic, “What is your religious position?” it is clear that some of us accept a vanishingly small chance that there are gods, the justification for this rests upon the few instances throughout history of such statements as “All swans are white.” followed by the embarrassment of the discovery of the Black Swan.
Of course, had the statement been “So far, all the swans that we have seen have been white.” The statement would have been popularly shortened to “All swans are white.” In the same manner as we say, “All dogs have four legs” only to have some idiot come along and tell you either about the dog he knows that has three legs after an accident or the one born in Mexico with 6 legs.
Karl Popper introduced [wiki]Falsifiability[/wiki] thus:
By the problem of induction, no number of confirming observations can verify a universal generalization, such as All swans are white, yet it is logically possible to falsify it by observing a single black swan. Thus, the term falsifiability is sometimes synonym to testability. Some statements, such as It will be raining here in one million years, are falsifiable in principle, but not in practice.
The concern with falsifiability gained attention by way of philosopher of science Karl Popper's scientific epistemology "falsificationism". Popper stresses the problem of demarcation—distinguishing the scientific from the unscientific—and makes falsifiability the demarcation criterion, such that what is unfalsifiable is classified as unscientific, and the practice of declaring an unfalsifiable theory to be scientifically true is pseudoscience.
Popper was OK in what he said, and I admit to not having read all his works
but the error in the reasoning, which he must have seen, is that when we add the word, “normal” we have “So far, all the normal swans that we have seen have been white.”
which, as far as using it as the killer argument goes, is pretty anodyne and is not going to get people sitting down in amazement.
The main reason for the weakness of this argument is that the human being likes to see patterns and then invent a reason for the pattern. So all Popper is saying is that stopping thinking before the real answer is likely to get you into trouble. So if the statement had been:
“So far, all the normal swans that we have seen have been genetically disposed towards being white but an alteration of gene TGFB
would cause this to be otherwise.” We would have something to get hold of
All this boils down to the universality of a statement, i.e. a generalisation: As long as we know it is a generalisation, then we can accept it in broad terms. And this is what is meant by “All swans are white.”
So, “There are no gods; there never have been and never will be.” could be seen as a generalisation were it not for the fact that a god, to be a god has to have “supernatural powers”.
You will see the difference between 1. “All swans are white.” And 2. “A god must have supernatural powers
”: Whereas the first does not define a swan or whiteness
, the latter does define
The only problem is what we mean by “supernatural.” And this, I suggest, is “not presently understood.”
Any god worth the title should have the ability to explain any power they have; once they have done that, then they have no supernatural powers. Devoid of supernatural powers, they are not a god.
Does this mean that there can be gods, albeit temporary ones? Ones whose “godness” will evaporate on explanation? No, it does not, otherwise any human action we do/did not understand would create a god.
This method of creating gods exists today: you should be aware of the idea of the [wiki]Cargo Cult[/wiki]: The supernatural (i.e. not understood) method by which a person apparently made cargo appear out of the sky, and following that person’s departure, and thus the cessation of the arrival of cargo from the sky, he is revered as a god.
I therefore am puzzled as to why anyone should think that there is even a vanishingly small chance of there being gods.