Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is Absence of Evidence, the Evidence of Absence ?

Sunita was relating to me an incident that happened in her native village. Few kids were scared to sleep alone at night, due to fear of ghosts. Sunita, being a woman of science, told them that ghosts were a figment of our imagination, an illusion created by a few, which is now deeply rooted in the minds of the rest. When the kids weren't convinced, she tried telling them, that since they have never seen a ghost, they should not believe that it exists. The kids immediately retorted "Have you ever seen God? Then why do you believe that He exists? Is He, too, not a figment of imagination? " She told me that she was rendered speechless, and asked me what I would answer.

I want to pass on this question to anyone who's reading this post. Do you believe in God? If you do, what is the support for your belief? Is evidence necessary? Can the lack of any evidence be taken to be the evidence for the absence of the phenomenon, as we try to do in case of Ghosts?

My own answers to these questions, I ll post in a couple of days. Till then, I ll await your responses :)


11 comments:

Ram said...

In a lighter vein ... Have YOU seen the USA or Europe? They DONT exist! All of it is a big sham!! You shouldn't think of spending money to study in fictitious places!

Shrek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shrek said...

You ever seen your great grandparents? No? You got any evidence that they once existed? (pardon my language please) What basis do you have for your claim that they once did? Just that you heard about them from your parents/grandparents maybe. Similarly, I feel God too doesn't need any proof for us to believe in him. Those who do believe in God should do so on basis of their faith in what our sages teach us. Well... too big words from a kid's mouth :) I'll stop before I say something silly :D

Bastet said...

@ Ram
lol ! :D I might have not seen the US, but, then, several of my friends have gone there, seen it, and are studying there :P And, I do have an option of going myself n checking out, right! :D btw, "I" wont be spending the money :P :D

Bastet said...

@ shrek
Then you can use same logi for ghosts as well, right? And, dumbo, if my great-grandparents dint exist, I wouldnt be here ! :D You cant make people out of thin air! Bad logic, Sid baab :D

Shrek said...

@Cb...

Well, same logic can hold for God if you wish to :P

suma said...

Chetu did read the discussion in Dilbert Blog (yeah, quite incongrous)? he went on to comment on atheists- who ask for an avidence to state the presence of God, who, themselves do not have any evidence to say otherwise.

I confess, my mind is logical- up to the point where logic and personal emotions co-exist hamoniously. God is an unquestioned emotional support for me. As such I am an agnostic by definition.

mayank tewari said...

hmmmm...a typical chetu question....:P...see the entire concept of right or wrong is your own perception...there are somethings which cant b reasoned out...if u believe God exists then u'll hv to believe dat an evil power also exists...its the law of nature...everything should be balanced...as far as the evidence is concerned, there is no evidence for the Black hole or the Bermuda...no one has seen them...but still we know that there is some power in those regions and we continue reasoning that out in vain...

Gopalakrishnan said...

Dont get me wrong here and sorry if you think I am intruding .no doubt you can delete the comment..( we have never met) but the topic was a nice one. Here is my perspective maybe a rdidculous one maybe not .

Instead of proving why there are no ghosts y dont you just give them direction to let them decide .
Ask them how they feel when they go to the temple. everything feels positive You are fresh after bath there is sense of peace and you go ther asking for blessings et all .
Take them to a scary house . They anticipate a ghost and other negative facts and even smaller moments like thier own friends hand in the dark is treated with shock .

The point is Ghosts are the mind's way of interpreting how the body reacts to certain surroundings. The surrounding changes to a temple and years of stories of supernatural power and all the magnificent stone structures take shape of something powerful we think of god in our heads .

Ghosts are generally dreaded and regarded eveil thanks to society .

Coming from a brahmin family we always performed what is called "tevsham" and shradh in Hindi . There is one particular time in the end where my mother always explains that pandit just opened a window to the world above from where our forefathers (naturally ghost coz it aint god and it aint evil) bless us .

Sorry for being such a bore .

Panicker said...

Hokay.. Ahem....Lets think of it this way... Man is a selfish being, desiring his benefit, with occasional moments of altruism thrown in. But theres and underlying reason for altruism, besides the obvious desire to help others; It's the feeling of inner satisfaction u get when uv helped someone when he/she most needed it.
Similarly, the idea of God gives us an incentive to live life according to a set of moral principles, with the underlying belief that at the time of reckoning during life or after, our good deeds will be rewarded.If we were to live life with no fear of punishment, the powers-that-were imagined a period of untramelled, indulgent, moralless revelry among the general population, resulting in no benefit to mankind.Hence the emphasis on God.
Thats one part of the answer.Several times in life, experiences leave u cynical or broken.Neeru's and Ketan's accident is an example of this.The idea of God would appeal to people who believe that they transcended to 'a better place','closer to God'.
And yet others believe God to be nebulous, existing as the inherrent good in us, a crutch during times of distress, someone to ask for help when u need help, and someone to thank for during times of plenitude.

bhisham said...

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

– Bertrand Russell, Collected Papers, vol. 11, p. 91