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Greater Houston Skeptic Society Message Board › Undefined terms

Undefined terms

Tom P.
Houston, TX
Post #: 59
To split my sidebar on undefined terms from Steve's thread.


Thanks for taking the time to reply to my comments. I'll address the following quote from your post.

"A couple of points. Let's not equivocate about the word "prove." Obviously I was making a case for the existence of a creator God. I wish you would provide some more detail about the multiple meanings of ill-defined words. In other words, what words? "

"God" in this case is to me a vague and ill-defined term. "God" is a concept that means many things to many people. In fact, it can mean almost anything to anyone. Until there are attributes applied to God, it has no real meaning, in terms of a logical argument.

The dichotomous statement you made, that I paraphrase here as “Either God exists or doesn’t exist” is, in my view invalid because “God” is ill-defined. Therefore, it is a false dichotomy.

I differ this from the statement “Either I exist or I don’t” because “I” is reasonably well defined. To use a favorite Star Trek reference, I am this “ugly bag of mostly water” I call me.

So in attempting to demonstrate the existence of a supernatural being without first defining attributes. That is saying what is “God” and what isn’t and this is how we know this, simply fails to make the case for anything.

That is what I can tell you about the presentation from memory. To give a more detailed critique, I would have to have a paper in front of me to read. Have you published your work as a detailed paper?
Tom P.
Houston, TX
Post #: 61
As to the word "prove." I used that term in a verbal critique during the discussion period. My meaning of "prove" was to provide a logical demonstration. Tom evidently took my meaning another way at the time and stated he wasn't trying to "prove" the existence of God. I think it was a miscommunication between us that has now been cleared up.
A former member
Post #: 7
The dichotomous statement you made, that I paraphrase here as “Either God exists or doesn’t exist” is, in my view invalid because “God” is ill-defined.

I disagree. The statement follows directly from the law of the excluded middle (LEM). There are schools of philosophy that attempt to avoid the LEM, but mathematics (other than Brouwer's Intuitionists) would be lost without it. The problem with making a statement about an ill defined concept is not that the statement is false, but that it is useless.

Euclid's proof that there are infinitely many primes relies on the truth of the statement that there are either infinitely many primes or there are not. He assumes for the sake of argument that there are not and shows that the assumption leads to a contradiction. He can therefore conclude that there are infinitely many primes. But he does that by using the precisely defined concept of prime number.

If we start with the assumption that God exists or that he doesn't exist, we get nowhere, because without knowing the attributes of "God" we can't draw any conclusions from his presence or absence.
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