Religion-Science Philosophy articles series
What Modern Platonic Dialogues are
Modern Platonic Dialogues (MPD) is an idea that attempts to revive the noble art of dialogue that Socrates and Plato exercised 2,500 years ago in the Agora in Athens, Greece. The aim is to present all different views for currently controversial issues via online dialogues in which everyone can participate.
Having a “live” dialogue can be much more productive and efficient than someone just writting an article with his/her views on a subject. Not all people agree on everything, not all people have the same “logic”. The point is not to try to persuade others that we have the correct logic, but to understand that our fellow-human arguments may be as “logical” as ours.
How to participate in an MPD
All Modern Platonic Dialogues are open via the Moderated Collaboration model. You can all send me your comments for a new dialogue! Comments are also welcomed in this page!
List of Modern Platonic Dialogues
The idea of MPD is new and dialogues are expected to increase in number exponentially in the ofllowing years. Please keep coming to this page for updates on what topics are currently under discusion. The Platonic dialogues that currently exist are listed in the following catalogue:
1. Modern Platonic Dialogue I: A theist, an atheist and an agnostic talking…
2. Modern Platonic Dialogue II: A mathematician and a knowledge anarchist talking… (in progress)
Modern Platonic Dialogue I – An agnostic, an atheist and a theist
Below stands a dialogue between an agnostic man, an atheist man and a woman who believes in God. All of these people believe in “something” or believe that they don’t have to believe in “anything”. Does any of them have evidence to support his/her view? Does modern scientific data show the way to the truth in favour of any one of them? Whose “logic” is more “valid”?
Agnostic – Why do you believe in God?
Theist – I believe that something more than stones and dirt exists in the universe.
Atheist – But that’s silly! I “believe” means nothing to me! Why don’t you also believe that hand-reading can reveal your future?
Theist – What do you mean?
Agnostic – It’s simple! Why don’t you believe in anything else like mumbo-jumbo vooodoo magic but you choose to believe in something so weird as “God”?
Th – I have my reasons…
Ath – You mean beyond simple faith?
Ag – What reasons could that be? We all know that you cannot prove that God exists.
Th – You probably don’t know Godel.
Ath – Who is Godel?
Th – Someone who proved that the perfect being we call “God” exists by using modal logic.
Ag – I’ve heard that “proof”. It’s all based on the wrong axioms. Godel started in the wrong way.
Th – But you do believe in mathematics.
Ath – What does that have to do with God?
Th – You complain that Gödel used the axioms he wanted. Isn’t that what we do in all mathematics?
Ag – Yes, but that is different.
Th – Different how?
Ag – Mathematics work in real life. We can see they are true.
Th – That seems to be case, until someone realizes the process we follow to make them work. We see things happen and then formulate the mathematics to explain these phenomena. Mathematics work because we have made them to work. They just describe things we see. They are not “true” in their own sense. At least not so true as the table we see in front of us…
Ath – That’s ridiculous! We can prove things with mathematics!
Th – Based on the theorems you chose and on the logic you know. What if you chose different axioms?
Ag – Then you would have something like the non-Euclidian geometries.
Ath – Yes. And we know that these geometries work!
Th – What do you mean by that “work” you keep saying? That when you see one tomato and another tomato the equation 1 + 1 = 2 actually “works”? It just represents what we see! We made it what way! It’s more than logical that it works. We made it to!
Ag – But that means nothing to you?
Th – It means that mathematics are a nice tool to represent and study reality. But it says nothing about how mathematics exist or not. It does not say if they are “real” or not.
Ath – So you doubt that π exists?
Th – I know that a number we cannot write down on paper troubles me.
Ag – We know that number. We know how it can be represented…
Th – …in a great number of ways, I know. But you still cannot write it down on paper. You cannot write it down, as simple as that!
Ag – Number π comes out of many equations.
Th – Equations that you made based on your axioms and your logic.
Ath – These are many kinds of logic?
Th – There is my logic, your logic, his logic…
Ag – Mathematics have only one logic.
Th – And you bet that you know it better than Godel? The greatest logician after Aristotle?
Ath – That means nothing. He could be wrong.
Th – Correct. So could you.
Ag – But what is more un-logical than believing in something you don’t see?
Th – Ask a nuclear physicist for that…
Ath – Hey! What does all that have to do with God?
Th – I just want to show to you that you argue against Godel proof of God’s existence but you don’t apply the same level and depth of criticism to other things you take for granted.
Ath – It’s maybe all other things we take for granted are things we can see, unlike your God…
Th – So you can see atoms?
Ag – No. But our models based on their existence work.
Th – Very nicely put. And what happens when a new theory replaces the existing one?
Ag – Nothing. Life goes on.
Th – And you wouldn’t be a fool to have believed in something that was finally proven to be wrong?
Ag – That is how science moves forward.
Th – And has science proved that God doesn’t exist?
Ath – No. Neither that it exists.
Th – So?
Ath – So why do you believe in him?
Th – You mean besides the fact that Gödel proved it? I have many other reasons.
Ag – I bet they are not based on logic…
Th – They are “logical” reasons. But not logical in the mathematical sense.
Ag – I remember you implied something like that before. What other kinds of logics exist beyond the pure mathematical logic?
Th – Beyond the mathematical logic that says that a perfect being like God exists? Well…there is also your logic which says it doesn’t.
Ath – “Our” logic?
Th – Yes. And it doesn’t look very “mathematic” to me.
Ag – What do you mean? I use mathematics every day.
Th – That may be the case, but your answer to modal logic is just talk. Not mathematics.
Ag – Arguing against the axioms Godel used is mathematic.
Th – That is mathematic, yes. But the “logic” that tells you which axiom is “correct” and which is not is certainly not mathematic.
Ath – So you say we think irrationally?
Th – No. I am telling you that you have your logic and I have mine.
Ath – And what is the true logic?
Th – I wish I knew. Do you?
Ag – I know that you must have reasons to believe in something so extraordinary as God.
Th – I have reasons.
Ath – Like? Name one.
Th – Many parameters of the universe like the gravitational constant are set to exactly the value required to have a universe able to sustain life. I can hardly believe that this is a result of random or chance.
Ath – But what if it?
Th – But what if it isn’t?
Ag – So you base all your belief in coincidence?
Th – Actually you base your disbelief in the belief that randomness can result in that magnificent tuning of all universe parameters.
Ag – Now you are talking illogically. If you don’t have evidence for something you cannot believe in it.
Th – I observe a fact and I draw a theory to explain it.
Ath – That God has set these parameters?
Th – Yes. Isn’t that a valid scientific proposition for you?
Ath – Of course not.
Th – Why not? Random is better explanation that God?
Ag – At least random doesn’t suggest the existence of things we have not proved they exist.
Th – So π didn’t exist before mathematitians “discovered” it?
Ath – Your point is?
Th – My point is that because your logic – and I stress “your” because Godel’s logic is different – has not yet accepted the existence of something, that doesn’t mean that this thing does not exist.
Ath – But you have to prove that God exists. Not we that he doesn’t.
Th – Why is that? Are there court rules for God issues?
Ag – You know what he means. Don’t play stupid.
Th – I don’t. You say I have to prove my theory and that’s fine. But you don’t say that you have to prove your theory also! The “all came out from nothing” theory, you know…
Ath – So you admit you haven’t proved your theory?
Th – I admit that the existence of these parameters are not “hard”-mathematic logic as Godel’s.
Ath – So you admit that you rely on soft evidence for your belief in God.
Th – Actually I say much more that that. I am saying that all of us are relying on “soft” logic for what we believe. You have your logic, I have mine. We said that before…
Ag – Yes, but we didn’t agree on it.
Ath – So you say that there are two kinds of logic? One mathematic and one…other kind of logic?
Th – I believe so, yes?
Ag – You believe or you know?
Th – Is there a difference?
Ath – So you say there is nothing we actually know? All things we know are just beliefs we have?
Th – We exercise belief in every aspect of our lifes.
Ath – I certainly not do that when I use mathematics. I use specific rules.
Th – But your logic, your non-mathematical “soft” logic, tells you which rules to use. Which axioms to use so as to set the foundations of your mathematical world.
Ath – Axioms are things we actually know they are true.
Th – Like in the case of the Euclidian geometry? I doubt that…
Ag – For someone who is a non-believer, you certainly belive too much though…
Ath – Yes. I agree. You doubt everything but you say that God exists.
Th – I say that “I believe God exists”. There is a huge difference. And I already told you that my belief is supported by my logic also. “Hard” and “soft” logic alike…
Ag – You think that science will someday come to prove or disprove the existence of God?
Th – No I don’t think so. I believe science and religion lie on different realms.
Ag – Then what is all that talk about Godel? Where you playing with us?
Th – I just showed how someone might have different logic than you. I didn’t say that my logic is the same with Godel’s logic. It is of great importance for everyone to trully know that the only thing that’s certain is that we don’t know…
Ag – Εν οίδα ότι ουδέν οίδα, like Socrates said, huh?
Ath – I disagree. I think science and religion try to interpret the same truth and that science will someday answer everything. I wander where would religion stand then?
Th – Where it stands right now. Trying to answer the “why” questions. Science just tries to answer all the “how” questions.
Ag – Why won’t science answer those “why” questions too?
Th – Because science by its nature deals with natural phenomena. The question “why do we exist?” is for sure not a natural phenomenon.
Ath – So you believe in Christ also?
Th – Yes.
Ag – Based on what universe parameters?
Th – Nice one. Actually there are many historical witnesses in favour of my opinion.
Ath – And based on hearsay you believe that someone walked on water?
Th – Do you believe that straight lines are composed of an infinite number of infinatelly small parts?
Ag – That is what mathematics tells us.
Th – But many mathematitians don’t believe in the idea of “infinite”. Did you know that all we can do with the use of infinites in mathematics can be done without them as well?
Ath – So?
Th – So why do you believe in lines with infinite parts?
Ag – And that has something to do with God and Christ?
Th – It has to do with what you believe. I say that all people believe in various things. The only difference is what these things are.
Ath – But the only thing you have about Christ is some people say he existed. A handfull of people!
Th – In most important historical facts we base our knowledge on one or two eye witnesses. Why is the case here dfferent?
Ag – It’s different because not every day you hear about people walking on water…
Th – So if you saw one, you wouldn’t tell your friends?
Ath – I would tell them. But I don’t think I will ever see one.
Th – Suppose your closest friend, a man you know that can be trusted, comes to you and tells you he saw someone walking on water. What then? Would you believe him?
Ag – I would hardly believe him. No. In fact I wouldn’t.
Ath – Me either.
Th – So you have ruled out the possibility of such a fact happening. Even if it does, you will never know even if your are told!
Ath – I think so, yes.
Th – It’s called “trust” and it is based on believing. People exercise that every day. You should try more hard if you want to keep your friends.
Ag – I don’t want friends who lie.
Th – But even if they didn’t lie, you wouldn’t tell the difference!
Ag – So have you seen a donkey flying?
Th – Even if I had, you wouldn’t believe me! But on second thought, you are something even more thatn just that…You are something like an “improved” version of Doubting Thomas. Even if you saw yourself a flying donkey you wouldn’t believe it either!! You would deny it and persuade yourself that there must be a logical explanation for what you saw. And even if you never found that logical explanation, you would still be looking for that explanation and you would never believe that you saw a miracle! You see, it is a dogma in your science that you must follow?
Ag – Science does not have any dogmas!
Th- It has when it claims that everything is made of matter that obeys the natural laws. You have ruled out the possibility of spirit from the beginning! No wander you can’t find it! Even if you see it in front of you, you would simply deny it and try to explain it in your own terms!
Ath – Do you have any proof that spirit exists? Than something else than matter exists?
Th – Do you have evidence for the opposite? That’s what I am telling you, it is a dogma you have chosen to believe as true. If you think that everything is made out of small particles, how can you discover anything else?
Ag – But even if we hadn’t thought of it, wouldn’t we see it when it came to existence?
Th – What do you mean?
Ag – I mean that noone was believing in the existence of gravity before it was discovered by Newton. But nevertheless we “discovered” it when we were mature enough.
Th – So gravity “exists”?
Ath – It seems so, yes. I mean according to the evidence we have so far…
Th – But it almost certain that the theory for gravity will change in the neas future. Scientific theories alsways change, don’t they?
Ag – They do. But what is your point?
Th – My point is that when – because it is certain that someday will happen – the theory of gravity is replaced by a theory for “dark matter” or “dark energy” fields, apples will continue to fall on Earth…
Ag – Because of gravity.
Th – Because period!
Ath – So gravity doesn’t exist?
Th – I am saying that the reality is what is is. Apples fall down on Earth no matter what our theory is. Reality is a completely different thing than science. And the fact that reality exists does not make our scientific theories any more or less valid.
Ag – But science interprets reality.
Th – That’s right. It interprets it.
Ath – Science helps us understand the world.
Th – So the world is understandable? Intelligible as Aristotle might say?
Ag – Yes. And that is the only one “miracle” I can accept…
Th – “Intelligible” means that we can understand it, that we can find the cause behind things happening…
Ath – Yes, so?
Th – So what is the “first cause” of everything?
Ath – Why should there be a first cause?
Th – Because if no first cause exists, then the universe stops being intelligible.
Ag – Aristotle told that.
Th – I didn’t say he didn’t. But what is your answer to that?
Ath – Who says we need to search for a first cause? Couldn’t the universe just exist with no first cause?
Th – But if no first cause exists, then we end up with an infinite series of “causes”…
Ath – So?
Th – …so we end up not knowing the actual “cause”.
[text is in progress as the dialogue continues]