What would it take in a book to convince a rational person that it had been written by or directly inspired by a god?



Many of the world's religions are based on a book or text that adherents claim to have been written by or directly inspired by a god, perhaps omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

My question is whether there is anything, in principle, that could be written in a text that would convince a rational person that the text must have been written by a god, and in particular, that it could not have been written by a human being, even a very insightful one?


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 3 508

6If I can be convinced that a certain book has been written by an omniscient god, that omniscient god would know it (even if I don't). Therefore the best proof of it would be if after reading the book I'd be convinced. – celtschk – 2012-09-23T16:10:15.703

I would become a Believer if the book contained readable, flawless, and elegant proofs that settled both the Riemann Hypothesis and the P=(?)NP conjecture. It is just conceivable that a human could do one, but not both.

– John Bentin – 2011-06-23T13:29:41.480

What a bout one million humans from the future? :-) – Lennart Regebro – 2011-06-23T16:13:31.753

Many would argue that our existing religious texts contain solutions to scientific and/or mathematical problems that were considered extremely challenging or even insurmountable at the time. It's hard to imagine that either of the examples you give will never be solved by humans at some eventual point in the future. – Cody Gray – 2011-07-04T11:52:22.310

1Can God, if existing, pose a philosophical or moral questions so difficult even God self could not answer it? If yes, it could be written down and may be the proof of Gods existance. But can a beeing that is not able to answer this question be considered an allmighty God? – mart – 2012-08-16T07:36:14.660

Well, it could be handed to me directly by G-d, that would be convincing... But I guess that happened, if you consider Moses. Such is the reason, I suppose, why the Jews continue to defend their truth. – TheDoctor – 2012-09-13T18:29:44.640

How would you know that whoever hands it to you is god? – celtschk – 2012-09-23T16:11:04.517

I would say yes, there is a way. But there are 30 answers already and it's too much to read before answering fully, while my answer would require a long essay. If our idea of God is of an objective being then there would be no way, and as most people have this idea of God then for most people the answer will be that there is no way. – None – 2018-04-23T14:49:59.997

1If there is no answer to this question, then the claim that there is no god is unfalsifiable. Am I correct? – Joe Z. – 2013-03-15T12:33:30.057

20Not written by humans doesn't necessarily imply written by a supernatural being. – Raskolnikov – 2011-06-23T10:37:28.267

2@Raskolnikov, of course I agree with that; my question is what it would take in a book to convince a rational agent that it was from a god. In particular, I take this to imply that it was not written by a human, but indeed this would be a weaker claim. – JDH – 2011-06-23T12:53:34.513

Dear Professor Hamkins, are you still active in philosophy forum? I have many questions in philosophical aspects of logical and set theoretical theorems and phenomenons and I will be really happy to know your attitude about them because you have a valuable experience in both realms of logic and philosophy and your answers could be really useful. – None – 2013-11-19T00:41:42.417

Although hardly a religious person, I m sceptic of.. sceptics. Ridiculizing scriptures respected by millions is hardly a wise thing. Granted, religions are responsible for most wars and miseries, at least being a trigger for most geopolitical conflicts to date. However, could any sceptic reply, what would our society be with abiding to any ethical (supernaturally provided, for obvious reasons) framework? Would people ever abide to just "logic", "rationalism", "balancing nature on a scale"? Maybe our life would then be more misrable and catastrophic. What do you think? – p.a. – 2012-08-17T08:18:02.823

1I think the caption of this question ("What would it take...") is unanswerable unless the answerer is God (and I don't believe I've seen Him post on this site so far). What's worse, the question doesn't even ask if there is proof of God in existence (if it did, you could get away by relaying the word of God) - it asks the human answerer to imagine and describe such a statement that is impossible for a human to imagine and describe and can only originate from God. – Superbest – 2014-01-08T08:43:25.930

You should select an answer for this question. – Lennart Regebro – 2015-01-05T09:53:33.593

1@LennartRegebro Why? Although I have enjoyed the answers, yours particularly, I don't think that any of the answers are definitive. – JDH – 2015-01-05T14:18:51.443

You can change your mind if a better one comes along. It's usually how SE type sites work. – Lennart Regebro – 2015-01-05T16:05:01.547

On the math-related sites where I am active (such as MathOverflow), the policy is that it is entirely the OP's discretion. But having now looked at all the answers again, I realized that Geoffroy makes the most compelling general argument. – JDH – 2015-01-05T23:11:41.560

I once was told by a friend of Muslim belief that the Coran was written by God is proved by the fact, that so many people know it by heart. – Hans-Peter Stricker – 2011-10-24T06:39:21.650

5Simple: it would require *proof*. How does one prove that a book was written by or inspired by God (or anything for that matter)? I would have to observe such writing or inspiration occurring such that there could be no explanation other than that a God did it (and therefore exists). Thus, this question is really just a veiled way of asking "How can we prove the existence of God?" (although the OP may not have realized this when writing the question). – stoicfury – 2012-02-29T17:20:46.803

Interesting how you say "a god" (any god), and most answers talk about "God"... – Rodrigo – 2015-11-06T18:28:54.683

considering that such thing happens, it seems to be unfrequent. Why would that be so? What would be the requirements for this to happen? – Tames – 2012-07-18T04:04:32.370

A coupon for an all-inclusive weekend trip to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, followed by a personally guided tour of the beginning up until I click my heels to redeem the coupon would probably convince me. – Cees Timmerman – 2012-05-21T11:35:10.170

1Some Sufi doctrines hold that the universe itself is the great quoran. Our attempts to probe & understanding it, is the attempt to read it. – Mozibur Ullah – 2012-07-18T03:35:11.287

2Mr. Smith Goes to Washington says "Liberty is too Precious a thing to be buried in books". Couldn't this be rephrased for love/god ? in the end this shows that books are weak attempts to render something that is inside our souls ? or could your soul be so finite that it can be buried in a book ? – robin girard – 2012-08-17T09:30:55.113



Nothing written in a book could convince anyone that it has been written by god.

3 reasons:

Because any extraordinary written stuff could have been coincidentally written.

A book with thousands (or more) of different ideas (not necessarily predictions) has a good chance that some of them could later be interpreted as real predictions or as ahead of its time impossible scientific discoveries.

Because any book can be written randomly by a computer.

A book is only a combination of limited letters (or symbols, ideogram etc. depending of the language) and any powerful machine can randomly create all possible books (if the book is not unlimited).

So if you showed me a particular book and you told me it has been written by god, then I'd respond that a machine could have written this book or similarly that a human could have randomly created the book.

The designer of the ideas in that book would then be chaos/chance/randomness which is far away from any god definition.

Because we could live in a simulated reality in which any data could be produced by a super intelligent being in order to manipulate us.

In this case, any extraordinary content displayed in the book (as predictions) could be explained as manipulations from the super-intelligent designers of this "matrix".

Geoffroy CALA

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 980

@Chris Sunami For instance, this reason: most god definitions imply that God is omnipotent and or omniscient. Super-intelligent beings (supervising a Matrix) may be very smart and powerful compared to us, but not necessarily omnipotent and / or omniscient. – Geoffroy CALA – 2017-12-14T19:07:48.840

@GeoffroyCALA Any being that can create a simulated reality is effectively omnipotent with respect to that reality which is what counts inside that reality. Furthermore, it is potentially omniscient, again with respect to that reality, unless the simulation is either too complex for it to follow all the details, or it has chosen deliberately to veil some of its workings. – Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2017-12-14T19:45:01.050

9That same reason justifies not believing that a book was written by a human. – Mitch – 2011-08-23T20:47:47.027

1Was that your point then? It might be useful as an extreme skepticism, but then so is solipsism. – Mitch – 2011-08-24T13:58:47.113

No. Solipsism is where you are 100% sure that only your mind exists. I never said that. I just list possibilities; "any book can..." or "we could live...". The original question was to convince so with 100% certitude, I just showed that as there is no certitude, one could never convince of this fact, hence my negative answer. – Geoffroy CALA – 2011-08-24T14:22:25.297

2Oh, so it -is- your point that it would be difficult to establish authorship (at least of ideas) by a god (or -any- source), because any text -can be- randomly created or simulated, right? – Mitch – 2011-08-24T15:00:24.283

Yes. But I would also add coincidentally created. I you have 1000 ideas (predictions or not) in a book, there is a big chance that some of them look like future real events. If you have a reasonable doubt, then you can't ascertain with 100%. – Geoffroy CALA – 2011-08-24T15:15:51.493

The third one is somehow not legit. God could possibly be a super intelligent being and just for us to let us understand, told us He is not natural. – enedil – 2015-07-06T15:28:33.417

On what basis would you NOT identify the super-intelligent designer of our reality with "God"? – Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2016-11-22T16:07:11.433


To convince me that a book is written by God, it will have to contain information only God could know, but which can still be verifiable by me. This is likely impossible.

For example:

A list of all major global future events of types that are not possible for anyone but God to influence, like a complete list of all volcanic eruptions and earthquakes for several years, with magnitudes and death tolls, is not enough. These events are not possible to influence, but a book from the future could record them, so this does not exclude time travelers.

A detailed list of local weather changes everywhere I go for months would also be impossible to predict, and to control. Temperature to the centigrade, exactly when rain stops and starts, and thunder claps, recorded to the second. That excludes everything except somebody who secretly follows me around for months to record this, and then sends the book back from the future.

Let's say that the book included things only I could know, such as private information about me and my thoughts. But that still doesn't exclude a cooperation between time travelers and a future me, and this is where it gets tricky.

Let's say somebody has small technological insects that monitor me, and record everything I do, and everything that happens, including major earthquakes and my local weather for years. They then compile a book of this, and cooperate with a future me that adds information only a future me would know and sends that book back. I do not see any way to put information in the book that a combination of a future me and these time high-tech travelers would not know.

Hence, I can not find anything to put in a book that only God could know that would still be verifiable by me.

Lennart Regebro

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 3 378

What would constitute verifiable?Is it verifiable only if it is proved in a lab? Also,is the time span for such a verification limited?Hindus believe that there are certain "unworldly" matters than can be experienced through penance/meditation.Not to bring in religious stuff but the process of this penance and realising "godly" stuff was perfected into several steps/grades with instructions(e.g.Patanjali YogaSutras).If you get a chance,read Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's Lecture on "Intuition vs. Intellect".Theoretically,the verification that you speak of can be intuited and not just rationalised. – moonstar – 2013-03-29T05:31:30.020

1@moonstar2001: No, I do not consider "because it feels right" verification. I need concrete proof. Examples of concrete proof is in the answer, together with explanations of why they are not proof of god, but could have been created otherwise. – Lennart Regebro – 2013-03-29T10:09:54.707

What would constitute verifiable? Would it be verifiable only if it is proved in a lab? Also, is the time span for such a verification limited? Ancient Indians believe that there are certain "unworldly" matters than can be experienced through penance/meditation. Not to bring in excessively religious stuff into the mix but the process of this penance and realising the "godly" stuff was perfected into several steps/grades with instructions on what to do at each step before advancing to the next (e.g. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali). Also, if you get a chance, please read Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's Lec – moonstar – 2012-05-21T15:18:10.063

8For some reason what you've written reminded me of P=NP problem. – Lie Ryan – 2011-06-23T16:10:03.160

8I appreciate your honesty. Far too many people suggest that they would believe in God if only he were to X, but don't consider what they would actually believe if X occurred. It seems far too likely that they would demand further proof. I also find it odd that you assume time travelers attempting to trick you into believing in God is more likely than God himself. I suspect I know why you evaluate it thusly, but it's still interesting. – Jon Ericson – 2011-06-23T17:22:45.360

20@Jon: I think practical time travel probably is impossible, but I find it way more likely than the creator god for some reason trying to convince me I exist. A creator god likely would hardly know I exist, not give a shit if I exist or not, and certainly not try to convince me he exists. The whole idea of a loving creator god is an attempt to put oneself into the center of the universe, which I find to be a particularly narcissistic form of egotism. If I had a whole universe to play with I seriously doubt that I would care what one little stupid spec of dust thinks of me. – Lennart Regebro – 2011-06-23T18:01:19.163

That said, I welcome suggestions of what could be put in that book. I can't think of anything, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Somebody smarter than me might come up with something that only God would know, but is still verifiable. – Lennart Regebro – 2011-06-23T18:02:58.350

5I'd say that if you believe time travelers more likely than a god to attempt to convince you of a god's existence, no written knowledge will ever convince you. Your best bet will be some sort of epiphany and it's difficult to know how rational you'd find that. ;-) – Jon Ericson – 2011-06-23T19:02:16.577

@Jon: Everything I told you about myself is true. Don't ever imagine that you can see through me or anything like that. You can't. – Lennart Regebro – 2011-06-23T20:28:36.167

@Lennart A future you would have to write the book in order for it to contain all of that information, so future you cannot lead the same life as you (he cannot have been given the book himself). In this scenario, life is non-deterministic, and thus future you cannot know enough information to put into a book and send it back to you. Thus, since your lives diverge, the information in the book cannot have come from future you. – Jeff – 2011-06-24T22:33:05.233

There's another possibility, however-- that life IS deterministic, and thus everything can be calculated forward and backwards in time, given enough information. A civilization far in the future may acquire such an ability, and determine the relevant variables to write the book, and send it back in time. It's likely that they could not guarantee the correctness of this book though, as that would seem to fly in the face of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, but perhaps they could do a good enough job to attain a high probability of correctness. – Jeff – 2011-06-24T22:36:15.107

@Jeff: Yes, he can have been given the book himself. IMO, he in fact must have been given the book himself. (I like linear time). I think that it would be impossible to determine the exact time of earth quakes etc. It's not a matter of calculating but measuring the tensions in the crust that accurately. An interesting question would be what the difference between God and somebody who can determine exactly what will happen, but didn't decree it, is. :-) – Lennart Regebro – 2011-06-25T03:49:58.353

@Lennart I'm confused; if future you is given the book himself, then who actually wrote the book? – Jeff – 2011-06-25T14:36:44.537

@Jeff: The people with the supervising technology that gathered all the data, and the future me. They wrote it. It existed before, yes, as it was sent back in time after it was written. But that doesn't matter. – Lennart Regebro – 2011-06-25T15:08:23.040

@Lennart right. future you wrote the book. now since you have a copy of the book from the future, you have no need to write it yourself. therefore the timelines diverge, implying non-determinism, which in turn implies the book may contain inaccuracies. – Jeff – 2011-06-25T18:14:56.367

4@Jeff: Of course I have a need to write it. Otherwise I can't send it, and that would cause a paradox, and the universe would stop existing (except for the book). Talk about need! :-) Now stop discussing the complexities of time travel, it's completely off-topic and utterly besides the point. The book is written. It's sent back. Done. There you go. – Lennart Regebro – 2011-06-25T19:37:26.317

@Lennart I'm not merely discussing the complexities of time travel, I'm presenting an argument which I believe refutes your point. I think there's some misunderstanding between us though, so I'll just drop it. Good post. – Jeff – 2011-06-25T20:23:59.123

@Jeff: Just to clarify: The book is not in an infinite loop. It is first written, then sent back. Once I get/write the book, I therefore have both the book as new and as old, and I send the new back, but keep the old. – Lennart Regebro – 2011-07-01T07:00:18.117

We are not sure time travel exists. So if a book like the one you describe existed today, your argument would just sound crazy... – Paolo – 2014-03-31T16:01:24.387

@Lennart: Each page could contain the exact thoughts that crossed your mind while reading the previous page. The moment you read the last page is the moment you die. – Eelvex – 2011-09-17T00:32:59.710


Actually the Bible does contain quite a lot of these prophecies, and a lot of them were wrong! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Bible#Unfulfilled_prophecies

– Chris S – 2011-09-25T16:29:25.353

@Eelvex: If I die one I start reading, the whole process is pretty pointless. :-) But your idea is intriguing. – Lennart Regebro – 2011-09-25T18:56:00.187

How about God presents you with a book that (a) Disproves time-travel in a manner which you find impossible to refute, and (b) Presents a future prediction such as the ones in your post? – WW. – 2011-10-09T09:21:29.110

@WW.: Disproving time-travel in a way I would find impossible to refute, but which is still incorrect, is probably not that hard. :-) – Lennart Regebro – 2011-10-09T15:31:27.333

About the probability thing: Yes, I do think time travel is probably impossible. But I still think it's more likely than that the creator of the universe would go through all that trouble just to convince me it exists. – Lennart Regebro – 2015-01-30T10:04:36.873

@JonEricson: It's not a matter of time travel being more likely than a god. The question was proving that a given book was written by a god. If time travel is possible, however unlikely, and a book could have been written either by a god or by a time traveler, then there's no proof that it was written by a god. (Nor is there any proof that it was written by a time traveler, but that wasn't the question.) – Keith Thompson – 2012-07-18T18:48:07.927

3@Keith Thompson: But by that logic, it's impossible to prove anything about the past. Did Einstein discover General Relativity? Nope: a time traveler told him. It's the deus ex machina of all historical problems. – Jon Ericson – 2012-07-18T19:07:58.367

1Technological insects watching in future? sure, somebody is talking about Dragonball Z here... ;) – Bharadwaj Srigiriraju – 2012-07-21T14:22:24.950


Blaise Pascal, who I consider a rational agent, said:

The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others.

Therefore, his view of the Christian scriptures is that a rational agent could reasonably believe or disbelieve the "proofs of our religion". This is also the view of Alvin Plantinga and it seems the authors of the Bible as well.

Other religions, particularly Islam, believe that their scripture is self-validating:

Surely, any sincere and unbiased searcher of truth will come to believe that the Qur'an is the revealed Book of Allah.

Here's an example of the argument:

"The above observation makes the hypothesis advanced by those who see Muhammad as the author of the Qur'an untenable. How could a man, from being illiterate, become the most important author, in terms of literary merits, in the whole of Arabic literature? How could he then pronounce truths of a scientific nature that no other human being could possibly have developed at that time, and all this without once making the slightest error in his pronouncement on the subject?"

Maurice Bucaille, THE BIBLE, THE QUR'AN AND SCIENCE, 1978, p. 125.

I don't have any particular evidence that people who believe these sorts of statements are not rational beings. My personal experience with people who make these claims is that they are rational. It would be unfair of me to claim they are irrational so that I can dismiss their claims as irrational.

I believe that I am a rational agent. I believe the Christian scriptures were "breathed out by God", which doesn't quite mean they were written by God, but that they were directly inspired by him. This isn't really the time or place to defend that belief, but the basic outline looks like this:

1) The Bible, when it treats historical subjects, broadly reflects historical reality.

2) The historical events treated by the Bible, particularly in the life and death of Jesus, are strong evidence of a God not anticipated or invented by humanity.

3) History since the events of the Bible shows rational men and women clinging to their belief in the truth of the Bible even to the point of death.

I don't expect anyone to be persuaded by this sort of argument (point #1 would probably be impossible to prove to someone who firmly rejects the Bible), but I would hope other rational agents could imagine how I might rationally be convinced of this.

Update: To answer JDH's comment, there are essentially two questions that I see: the explicit and the implied. The answer to the explicit question seems to be "No". (Other answers bare that out, I believe.) For the Bible, at least, there's even an expectation that it will be seen as foolish:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. -- 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (ESV)

That's a restatement of the first section above.

But there is also an implied question: "If there's nothing that can written in a text that would convince a rational person that it was written by a god, can a rational person believe a text was written by a god?" It is a question of what Dr. Plantinga calls Warrant which loosely defined is that property that separates knowledge from belief. One might extrapolate that since evidence for god-inspired texts isn't absolutely convincing, that belief in god-inspired texts isn't warranted.

I pointed out in the second section, that some do hold that some holy texts are self-validating, but you can't dismiss the claim out of hand. The specific evidence for the claim must be dealt with. It would be invalid to hold that people who believe a particular text is god-inspired can be written off as arational agents. I think the evidence for the Qur'an is a bit thin, but until I deal with it directly, I can't say that belief in its god-inspired status is unwarranted. That would be an invalid shortcut.

The third section deals with my personal belief. I'd be happy to defend it1, but it would be time-consuming and of perhaps limited interest. Even though I feel the evidence is strong, I know that each step would be hotly contested and at the end of the day, my view would be rejected by some (and probably all who don't already agree with me). But the point is the evidence itself must be evaluated, not the person making the claim.


  1. I've started my defense of the first point about the historical reliably at the Skeptics site.

Jon Ericson

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 6 843

5great analysis here -- I really like the Pascal quote you open with: "both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others" – Joseph Weissman – 2011-06-23T21:30:32.587

1@Joe: Thanks! (I always worry about giving explicitly Christian answers, which I fear aren't helpful or constructive to other view points. I'm critical of answers that don't have any persuasive value to the other side of the debate, so I feel I have to be especially careful on that point.) – Jon Ericson – 2011-06-23T21:49:10.757

I don't really see how this answer addresses the question. Pascal appears to be saying specifically that the bible does not have the features that I am requesting, and you also do not seem to be defending the self-validating view of the koran. (And as you say, you don't really defend here the last part of your answer.) Have I misunderstood something? – JDH – 2011-06-26T00:32:06.873


I responded to (1) w/ a link over at skeptics. You didn't defend historicity as much as you argued lack of solid evidence was consistent with historicity. For (2), there isn't a great amount of evidence of supernatural events beyond, and Jesus' life seems modeled after a lot of pre-invented gods. (3) seems really irrelevant and inevitably fallacious - intelligent people have defended myriad false and irrational beliefs sincerely believed to point of torture and death throughout history. This outline looks pretty impotent and garden variety.

– anon – 2011-08-22T02:44:04.197

2@anon: May I quote myself? "I don't expect anyone to be persuaded by this sort of argument (point #1 would probably be impossible to prove to someone who firmly rejects the Bible), but I would hope other rational agents could imagine how I might rationally be convinced of this." – Jon Ericson – 2011-10-06T18:50:21.527

@JonEricson, There are three instances of "warrant" in your answer. Do you have a particular definition in mind when using the term, or does it have the same meaning as according to Merriam Webster's definition?

– Pacerier – 2015-08-28T15:31:35.143


@Pacerier: I'm using Plantinga's definition: "A belief has warrant only if the cognitive process that produces it is successfully aimed at the truth." The question assumes that people who believe one text or another is diviny inspired are irrational until proven correct. My answer challenges that assumption.

– Jon Ericson – 2015-08-28T16:09:50.237

As a former christian myself, I find scripture it makes a lot more sense from a sociological standpoint, rather than a divine standpoint. The threads that bind us together are that we are human, not because this is all part of some deity's plan/ message. – Jesse Cohoon – 2016-12-05T03:13:36.413


Abstractly you want an interaction between two parties that will show to the first one that the second one is God, i.e. an interactive proof by God for the verifier who is our rational person.

Answer depends on what you mean by God (prover), what you mean by a rational person (verifier) and what you mean by convincing (what kind of interactions/proofs are allowed?).

Let me explain.

To show that a book is from God you need to show that the book could not be written by anyone else. This sentence has a universal quantification that can not be checked empirically, so we need to argue that logically. To do this we need to use what we know about God and argue that no one not satisfying those conditions could have written the book, or at least show that this is very unlikely. Most arguments would only show that the prover has certain properties, but this may not mean that the prover is really God, e.g. it does not rule out directly the possibility that it is written by an alien creature with super-human powers.

Same with verifier, our rational person. What kind of actions that person can perform? What are his assumptions about the properties that God has? etc.

The kind of interaction is also important. Sending a book or a written text is one possibility, but there can be more complicated interactions, e.g. other kind of miracles. A text by itself can be a miracle and theoretically a proof that the other party posses very high computational power that is unimaginable that a human can have (here we need to argue what are the capabilities of a human being). It is plausible that the prover is capable of solving a computationally undecidable problem, a problem that we know no computer can solve. But the verifier needs to be able to check the correctness of the proof. A more interesting case is for example a problem that does not have simple algorithms to find an answer but if given an answer the verifier can check its correctness (a.k.a. an NP-complete problem in computer science). If we repeat this process enough times we can be sure that the other party is capable of solving NP-complete problems very quickly, and if you believe in something like Extended Church-Turing thesis, then that should be very convincing.

Interestingly the proof can be very personal and not intersubjective, i.e. God can convince you that a book is from him, but you cannot show this fact to any third party (this is what is called a Zero-Knowledge proof in computer science).

I concentrated on the computational power of God, but one can use other capabilities of God that the verifier believes no one else is capable of like omniscience or omnipotence, e.g. if God raises mount Sinai over my head and I hear a voice that says Torah is from God a few thousands years ago, I would be convinced (though others might not since they believe that what they see and hear is not enough, it might be magic or something).

Interaction can increase the possibility of a proof considerably, i.e. it is much easier to convince if there is a two-way communication, e.g. verifier asks questions or make requests and God answers them. A book can perform as a common knowledge between two parties. For example, if the book is very long and although contains an answer to a question, finding it might be impracticable. But the verifier can ask for a proof of say NP!=P and God would say look at page X of the book. This is probably going to be a much shorter communication than a full proof of P!=NP (you can interpret this as what some people consider signs from God which directs them to answers to their problems or questions).

I again focused on computational power of a human, but if a verifier has other capabilities they can be used also, they don't need to be computational.

The previous part deals with what is called authentication, it does not mean that the book has not been altered, i.e. its integrity.

One last point. Most rationals have been heavily influenced by science and only accept arguments that look scientific and are intersubjective. Say a personal interaction with God which is not intersubjective and reproducible might not convince such persons. Also arguments which appeal to other capabilities of humans which science does not understand well at the moment, a poem or a picture or a natural even can have a very strong effect on a human, but because science does not certify it they would reject that as a reasonable argument. But it seems that the sender/author of books like Torah or Quran does not share their idea and values psychological and literatural effect more than a scientific argument, maybe it is because science changes too quickly too much, or probably he has a better understanding of how a human-being's mind works. Probably, these books should be analyzed from that perspective.

Computer Scientist

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 111

Very useful answer. Though too scientific at first, you regain balance by including the last paragraph. It is important to know we are biased in a specific manner, not necessarily towards the best possible manner to gain useful philosophical knowledge. – Alireza – 2013-03-16T19:29:39.847


There seems to be an equivocation between "rational" and "believes only in things which are 'true.'" This is not at all what "rational" means:

[Rationality] refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action... A rational decision is one that is not just reasoned, but is also optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationality

Suppose someone offered you a billion dollars to believe that the moon was made out of cheese. It would be perfectly rational for you to start believing in the cheese-moon hypothesis, assuming you valued the billion dollars more than you valued the 'truth'.

So what would it take for a rational agent to believe God wrote a book? Like everything else, the solution is large sums of money.

A harder question to answer would revolve around defining 'truth'. We might suggest that to assert "X is true" means something like "it is useful for one to believe X". We could point to an increased sense of community among believers, for example, as evidence that belief in a divine being is useful and therefore true. This is a (poorly phrased version of a) tack that James took.

And of course there's the nuclear option - denying the value of "truth". Consider the Knight of Faith. One of my favorie Kierkegaard lines:

Kierkegaard uses the story of a princess and a man who is madly in love with her, but circumstances are that the man will never be able to realize this love in this world ever... The knight of faith would say "I believe nevertheless that I shall get her, in virtue, that is, of the absurd, in virtue of the fact that with God all things are possible." This double movement is paradoxical because on the one hand it is humanly impossible that they would be together, but on the other hand the knight of faith is willing to believe that they will be together through divine possibility. [emphasis mine]


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 2 764

2Concerning the first point, I don't see any way that an offer of a billion dollars is in conformity with the cheese-moon hypothesis. I can't really imagine anyone looking at that particular confluence and concluding the belief is rational. Mercenary would fit better. (I don't understand where you are driving with this argument at all. I think you fell off the track right at the beginning.) – Jon Ericson – 2011-06-27T18:31:12.830

@Jon: If we accept that "rational" means "optimal for achieving a goal", and our goal is to make lots of money, then surely the rational thing to do is take the money? – Xodarap – 2011-06-27T21:02:51.613

1But we don't accept that condition. The normal term for abandoning a greater good for money is mercenary. Abandoning truth for the sake of personal gain is normally called hypocrisy. Note the Wikipedia definition you gave also says: 'The term "rationality" is used differently in different disciplines.' – Jon Ericson – 2011-06-27T21:15:29.960

@Jon: It has been my experience that epistemology and certainly logic take "rational" to mean something like "epistemically closed." If you have some data to indicate otherwise, please let me know. – Xodarap – 2011-06-28T01:05:45.553


From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/reason: "7. Philosophy . a. the faculty or power of acquiring intellectual knowledge, either by direct understanding of first principles or by argument. b. the power of intelligent and dispassionate thought, or of conduct influenced by such thought."

– Jon Ericson – 2011-06-28T01:28:21.523

@Jon: I'm not sure what you're getting at. It seems that this definition is saying something like: "if you're rational, believe P, and you believe P->Q, then you must also believe Q" (closure), which is unrelated to any given P/Q. Are you saying that "being scientific" is a first principle, and hence anyone who is rational must be scientific? – Xodarap – 2011-06-28T17:18:08.417

Surely a rational person would take the billion dollars and act as if they believed the moon was made of cheese, at least until the statute of limitations has passed, but not actually believe it. – Hugh Allen – 2020-10-04T06:44:15.223

In a sense, "being scientific" is a first principle. Rational agents seek knowledge (by the definition I gave) and a usual definition of knowledge is justified, true belief. Being scientific, in my mind, is using the inductive method to obtain knowledge, which is the natural way humans acquire knowledge from birth. The problem a rational agent trying to solve is the nature of truth. What you suggested in the first section is closer to sophism. It's possible that neither has solved the problem of obtaining knowledge, but only one is failing its goal. Method matters more than results. – Jon Ericson – 2011-07-12T18:02:28.897


The book itself would have to have the following properties:

  1. The book manifests as a tangible object--paper, clay tablets, etc.
  2. The book has always existed in every human culture.
  3. Everyone can read it, whether they know how to read or not.
  4. The book is clear and unambiguous on every point, and everyone who reads it agrees that this is so. This means that there are no incidents, in history or experience, where two humans have ever disagreed about what the book says or how to apply what it says to a given situation.
  5. The book is not published by any known human agent, but it exists anyway, and no human is ever unable to obtain a copy. That is, the book itself is not subject to the laws of physics. Further clarification: if a human wants to read the book, they just reach out and grab a copy out of thin air, and put it back into thin air or onto a bookshelf when they are done.
  6. No other book meets this criteria.

While this wouldn't prove that the book was written by an omniscient, omnipotent being that created the universe, it would definitely prove that the book is not written by man. So it's written by a being that is at least godlike.

An edit, based on muz's comment. It occurs to me that the questioner mentions "a god" as opposed to "God". In that case I suppose we could have many such books, and the best way for a rational person to be convinced that it was written by a god would be for the god to claim credit. For example, if there actually were an Athena and her powers and attributes were sufficient to demonstrate her godlike nature, then if she appeared on the Daily Show to promote her book, there wouldn't be a rational reason to doubt that she wrote it.

My first answer is based on the assumption that the book itself has to be proof of the existence of the god in question.

A further edit in response to sehe's comment. The properties I'm listing in my first answer are not properties of an intangible thing, or forces of nature like gravity. I'm saying that in order for a book to convince a rational person that it was written by a god, the book itself--the thing written on parchment, stone tablets, clay, or other media--would have to have those properties. I'm saying that if I wanted to read part of the Book, I would have to be able to reach out into thin air and conjure a copy of the Book, and that I couldn't conjure any other book. That's criteria 4. Criteria 3 means that whenever humans discuss the book, they agree. No exceptions, not even between teenagers and parents.

The book is also a source of unlimited electrical power, because it can be conjured and burned indefinitely, but depending on the contents people might or might not do this.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 1 164

Point 4, combined with the ones before it would make it not a book.. it would be some kind of natural insight. Point 5 might not be true; Islam and Christianity recognize other books as revelation, though this might contradict with your Point 1 in that such a book can't be introduced at a later date. – Muz – 2013-03-14T05:05:26.060

@Muz I think that is sort of the point, though. In order for a rational person to be convinced that something was the product of a supernatural being, the thing has to contain a convincing proof of supernaturalness, such as being supernatural itself. – philosodad – 2013-03-14T14:16:43.203

I'm thinking "gravity" fits the description of this "book" (it is untangible, yet appears to be omnipresent and rarely debated). My point is: this implies the perception of it (the 'book') by humans is important to qualify, and yet we know how perception is a debatable source of truth. For starters, we could have a phenomenon satisfy the criteria 'locally', with no way to assess universal applicability. My stance is, we couldn't know, even if we went along with the assumptions stated in your answer. – sehe – 2013-04-19T20:16:33.727

@sehe gravity is not a book, nor is it like a book, so it doesn't meet the most basic criteria. The properties I'm listing are not properties of an intangible thing, they would be properties of an actual book. – philosodad – 2013-04-20T11:30:32.950

I know it was ludicrous. However, *your* list specifically did not constrain to "a book" (whatever that may be) and it did constrain with "is not subject to the laws of physics". I was merely thinking along. Funny how you condemn my comment for an paradox/contradiction you postulated yourself. (FTR: I was willing to stretch the definition of "book" to include any kind of externally observable entity that can act as a source of repeatable information. Yeah, it's more like "medium". Hofstadter's "record into space" thought experiment comes to mind.) – sehe – 2013-04-21T11:09:37.837

@sehe I wasn't condemning anything. I was clarifying. I made an assumption that the context would be sufficient to demand an actual book... for example, point 3 states that people "read" the book. I was clearly wrong about that, and I'm not condemning you for pointing it out. – philosodad – 2013-04-22T19:39:16.683


If it were written in a language not known by man on Earth but was easily comprehended despite not knowing or understanding the language by all. Such comprehension would be universal and the understanding of it consistant. The content should be such that it advances concepts previously unknown as any creation of an all powerful being is going to be for a purpose. Any demand that people not seek to understand or clarify would tend to steal credence for such demands are clearly signs of insecurity not of a creation of an all powerful being.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 1 512

I like it, but how can you verify the understanding is "consistent" for a Chinese, an American and Amazonians uncontacted tribes? – Paolo – 2014-03-31T16:36:18.173

@Paolo - cause im really good. – Chad – 2014-03-31T16:40:54.350

7Aliens? ------- – stoicfury – 2012-02-29T16:59:08.797


Assuming the rational agent has a brain, there should exist a state where the neurons and molecules are arranged in such a way that the agent believes that a book has been written by or directly inspired by a god.

So, an intermediate translation of the original question is: "How can one change the brain of the rational agent so that the agent believes that a book had been written by or directly inspired by a god?

The answer would be totally dependent on the rational agent. A brain operation could be enough. Chemicals might do it. Rational arguments may also work.

I think this answers your question, but I assume what you're really looking for are the rational arguments that could convince such a rational agent to believe such a thing. If you could start out showing, with rational arguments, that things aren't always rational, I think that would be a good start. (ref the incompleteness theorem)


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 149


FYI. We've had a few question about Gödel's incompleteness theorems and how they are applied to non-mathematical problems. You might want to look at these questions: http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/godel

– Jon Ericson – 2011-06-24T17:34:27.590

1This sort of argument is completely lost on anyone who believes in a God that created them as a dualistic being with an immortal, rational, soul that is the thinking thing within them, and a body that happens to have a brain in it. I suspect the "rational person" in the question is a poor premise. – Wooble – 2011-08-24T17:01:02.197

1This argument is somewhat similar to the idea in Alvin Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief in that you're describing what could be called a basic belief (structure). – virmaior – 2015-09-12T18:08:52.443


If I were aware of a book that had been "written" by a spiritual being and wanted to convince a rational person that the book was divinely written, I would tell/show them the following:

First, we would have to agree that the book was not actually hand-written by the divine being, and that a human, who was able to communicate with the being, had transcribed the true author's meaning.

Then, I would introduce the rational mind to the human being which had communication with the spiritual being so that we might gather evidence. If the human transcriber was unconscious and clearly on an ego-trip, then we would dismiss the case. If the human communicator was clear- headed and aware, then we would continue to look for clues. We would continue to be attentive and observant of the transcriber. We might look for whether the human transcriber has a political or moral agenda (and drop the case if so).

Next, we would read the book. We would read the words and feel intuitively whether or not the words are beautiful. That is, the rational mind and I would take a moment to use our other facilities, that of intuition, to get a larger sense of the book. Then, we would discuss, in detail, the contents of the book. What is the book about? Is there a new archetype which is trying tell it's story? If so, what is the story it is trying to tell and does it help humans to understand the larger picture and answer questions like "Why are we here?". Do the words evoke fear and division (if so we dismiss the case)?

By reading the words and talking with the human transcriber, the rational mind and I would hold an image of the divine being. We would discuss what this non-physical essense is trying to communicate and why. We might again use our transcendental ('right-brain') abilities to open ourselves up to the possibilty of having a conversation with the being ourselves. We might imagine asking the being questions and listening to the answers. If we succeed, we would discuss whether the words written by the transcriber accuately reftect the astral being's meaning. If we hold different images of the being, or hear words of hate or distress then we drop the case.

If, after much discussion we feel a sense of the being and find the words as accurate as possible, then perhaps the rational mind will feel at ease knowing that a divine being "wrote" the book.

Erin K Carmody

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 414

1You did not really answer the question. What if the book was actually and literally written by a god? – Chad – 2011-07-12T17:59:26.650

Then, that god would have some way of interacting with physical tools such as a writing utensil and paper. In which case, the god would have some physical or human qualities. Perhaps this being is an archetype like Jesus. In which case does this disqualify the author as solely a god since it has the human qualities of linear thought, language, and motor skills? – Erin K Carmody – 2011-07-12T18:40:48.757

2Could a god not just create the book, without having written it? You assume limitations that do not exist in the question. – Chad – 2011-07-12T18:59:47.600

In that case, skip the part about speaking with the human transcriber. – Erin K Carmody – 2011-07-12T19:03:24.177

4I should have started with Welcome to S.E. Philosophy. Please do not get discouraged at being challenged. Refinement of answers is not just allowed but encouraged. – Chad – 2011-07-12T19:09:35.860

Thank you, I am happy to be at S.E. Philosophy. I am not discouraged by your way of challenging; I appreciate your questions. – Erin K Carmody – 2011-07-13T13:12:39.570


I find this question somehow similar to this one: What should a rational person accept as a miracle? In such a way, I do believe that the answer goes pretty much in the same way: it all depends on what you define by "rational" and what you define by "God" (although... do'h, that's totally breaking your question apart).

The point is that if a rational person would not accept God-inspired-books because it's just not "rational" to accept or because there are no direct proves for that, then you're defining being rational by being proof-based. Then, any proof of non-human inspiration could be the proof for God-inspired (but this may not be not actually correct) and the source of an inspiration can be definitely subjective. Pretty much in the same way as what do we consider a miracle and what do we consider extra-human-inspired, it is so subjectively accepted that there's no easy "rule" to define what's into it and what's not.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 329


Although the future-humans-of-considerably-advanced-technology possibility raised by Lennart is indeed formidable, I think there is a fair leeway for a rational person to be convinced that a book having been written by some sort of omniscient/omnipotent entity is the best explanation currently available to them, and on that basis become convinced until further information should present itself.

  • Sidenote: the conspiracy-with-future-me portion is not strictly necessary as we can also imagine some future device that extracts information from your mind against your will, or even which extracts the same information from some sort of background signal in an alternate dimension some time after your death. Otherwise you could simply commit on reading the book never to cooperate with future individuals and also obtain rational warrant for your belief that way, assuming you trust yourself.

For me, if a book described some sort of one-way function built into the physics of our universe, a Grand Unified Theory within which to thoroughly test said function, and a substantial set of predicted output from that function; combined with complete working instructions for a time machine in order to verify that the one-way-function changes its output under time travel; and then after verifying all this personally and traveling forward in time to the end of the universe to see that none of this technology is ever discovered by human beings (presumably the book instructs me to destroy the included knowledge after doing all this); then I would consider it highly rational to believe the book was likely written by some sort of omniscient/omnipotent entity (with respect to my universe at least) until or unless contrary information of some sort became available to me. Under the circumstances, it would be the best explanation currently available to me.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 1 440


This is an amazing question. If we restrict ourselves to the contents of the book alone, i.e. we can think of the book as an actual, finite letters-on-paper object made of earthly materials, then wouldn't we surely find this book in the Library of babel? Generated simply by a permutation of all possible symbols, purely by chance? And if there was this book that "proved" god A, wouldn't we find a similar book that is able to prove a different god B? Now how can we know which one is correct one? By this argument, one can never be absolutely sure that any book was truly divine. A sufficiently well-written book could of course, I'm sure, trick the most rational people into believing in it, but we were talking about irrefutable proofs.

If we allowed for qualities other than the text alone, Borges' Book of sand could probably be the best example of a truly divine book: The book that is all books!

As you might have noticed, the question in general reminds me very much of the works of Jorge Luis Borges, who often explores concepts of books, god and revelation. For example

  • in The secret miracle, God was in a single letter of a book
  • In muslim tradition, there is the 100th name of Allah, "The Greatest Name of Allah is the one which if He [Allah] is called (prayed to) by it, He will Answer." (according to Wikipedia). Borges mentions this several times. This name could be an appropriate content for the book in question.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 121


I think we are all touched by facts for which we hardly find an explanation that falls under our life and spiritual experience.

For example, a very precise prediction of a very particular fact is often destabilising and indeed it is difficult to measure, even a posterior, what was the knowledge of those who wrote the book (possibly god) and hence what was the probability of the prediction to be right. That would make me think that a precise fact is not enough. Maybe I would find more significant an exact prediction of a complex system of precise facts. Also this happens every day in plays and I would need a prediction for natural uncontrollable system of very unlikely events.

It might be difficult for god to make his way through prediction. Maybe I would be more convinced by two unexpected lines of insightful poetry changing abruptly the rest of my life.

In the end, asking the question "what would it take from a book..." might show that you have not understood what religon and god was all about, I would not say I am much into religion, but from what I understood god is not to be found in books (that would be weird to think it can, and your question and the associated answers show it is indeed) these are to be found digging into your soul, aren't they ? books are finite, but the source of your spiritual life is infinite isn't it ?

robin girard

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 705


If it were possible for a human to understand what was written in the book, then it would have to be possible for a human to have written it. So the only thing that should be able to convince a rational agent that it wasn't written by a human, would be something that no human can understand.

That could be, for example, as robin suggested, an exact prediction of a complex system. Say the book contained a precise explanation of how to build a spaceship that could travel faster than light, including explanations of all the physics involved, none of which were known to anyone on Earth, and which took our brightest physicists and engineers years to grasp before the ship could actually be built.

However, in that example the more likely explanation would be that the book was written by an alien civilisation more technologically advanced than ours.

Mark Lapierre

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 137

Or rather, that it could be build, even though nobody had any clue of how it actually worked. But this would then just be non-human information. That doesn't mean god. – Lennart Regebro – 2011-06-23T11:44:35.557


Main Argument:

Many things are done through processing...and many are not! You just discover it or know it!

For instance...does someone have to convince you by an argument that you are thirsty or you just know it? Does someone have to convince you that you were created?

Same thing for Holy books... Though I do agree that some parts of it are logical, but many parts of the books are just an admonition to the creator, to heaven and hell... and it just touches you !!! Yet for those admonitions to be effective, the person reading/hearing them must have a pure heart ( or at least a semi-pure god fearing heart)...in the same way that turning a murderer to being righteous is hard, in the same way convincing a sinner ( one who isn't god-fearing, isn't thanksgiving, is cheating, is lying, backbiting, doesn't do sacrifice much,etc.) that this book contains words of God is hard and difficult.
Sometimes the person has been reading/doing things that are totally against the nature of humans and by doing so he has lost his humility required for submission to God...and it takes time to be more humble again.

So to wrap up my answer, I would say that the person must be god-fearing ( otherwise its as if you are talking to deaf person) and ask God to guide him and then give him the book to read... and yet convince him that this or any other holy book just like any other book that has a teacher/interpreter would need one also. Though not for every line, as if needed one for every line, it would defeat the purpose of being a book of guidance

Samples of moving ( and not argumentative) lines from Quran ( Unfortunately I am still not savvy with the Old & New Testaments yet):

they shall say: o woe to us! who has raised us up from our sleeping-place? this is what the beneficent allah (God) promised and the messengers told the truth.--> Day of resurrection

say: "o my servants who have transgressed against their souls! despair not of the mercy of allah: for allah forgives all sins: for he is oft-forgiving, most merciful.--> Mercy of God

doth not man see that it is we who created him from sperm? yet behold! he (stands forth) as an open adversary! and he makes comparisons for us, and forgets his own (origin and) creation: he says, "who can give life to (dry) bones and decomposed ones (at that)?" say, "he will give them life who created them for the first time! for he is well-versed in every kind of creation! "the same who produces for you fire out of the green tree, when behold! ye kindle therewith (your own fires)! "is not he who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like thereof?" - yea, indeed! for he is the creator supreme, of skill and knowledge (infinite)! verily, when he intends a thing, his command is, "be", and it is! --> Power of God and Judgement day

to him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth: he enlarges and restricts. the sustenance to whom he will: for he knows full well all things.--> He is the giver


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 261


In mathematics, there are some problems that are very hard to solve, but where a solution is quite easy to verify. A simple example is that it is often very difficult to find the factorization of a 100 digit number, but quite easy to verify that such a factorization is correct.

To be more precise, it is a proven fact that for every positive integer, there is a proof which proves what its complete factorization is, with the proof easily verifiable.

If you showed a text which for every integer n from 1 to 1,000,000 calculates the integer pi * 10^n rounded down to the nearest integer, then gave its complete factorisation and a proof for that factorisation, then this could be checked reasonably easy, and it is something that is currently impossible to produce for humans, and it is likely impossible to produce for even the most technically and mathematically advanced civilisation in the universe.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 3 297


It rather depends on you than on the book or things therein. When you find a matching between your mind or soul's ingredients and the interpretants from the book (For interpretant - Refer C.S Pierce on Semiotic), the chance of being convinced increases and so on. God to each soul is likely to be different in some way, despite many could think they are worshiping the same God.

So it doesn't matter it's true or at least convinced to others as well. Such matching is sufficient to make you convinced. In another way, even if others are convinced, you may be not - no matchings or not sufficiently.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 85


I wonder if it would be possible to convince a truly rational person person about the existence of God at all (i.e. including not only books, but miracles and whatnot)? At the very least, it is impossible to differentiate between a supernatural agent having complete control over you and your surroundings, and a natural agent having the same control (some brain-in-a-vat situation), and the second needs less premises, and is thus favored by Occam's razor.

The same is even more true for a book. Anything that can be understood (not to mention validated) by the quite limited humen intellect certainly would not require an infinite intellect to produce (assuming for the sake of the argument that the term "infinite intellect" even makes sense). A very powerful AI capable of simulating a huge number of human beings could, for example, produce every string which is short enough for a human to read in its lifetime, then simulate all the efforts humans could muster to validate such texts, and throw away those which the simulated humans would not find godlike, thereby producing a godlike text (if one exists at all) while not being God.

On the other hand, it is not hard to imagine a book which could not have been written by a human being. One which asks you on the first page to get a coin and lists the results of your coin throws on the next few hundred pages would suffice. (It does not rule out time travellers, but then time travel has contradictions of its own.) If predicting future events is disallowed, then listing the solutions for all current hard problems of math, physics, biology etc. would still prove it was not written by a human.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 159

What if I copy the first pages of God's book and then I write my own "finale" of it? How can we tell which is the true one and which is the scam? :) – Paolo – 2014-03-31T16:27:50.463

1If you are a brain in a vat, and all you experiences are controlled by me, am I then not for all intents and purposes your God? – Lennart Regebro – 2011-07-24T12:58:44.180

No (for the usual meaning of God, at least). For example, few people would feel obliged to revere a being just because it is powerful. Religious thinkers usually attribute some vaguely defined "infiniteness" to God (it is not just very powerful, but omnipotent; not just ethical, but defines ethics etc.); I'm arguing that that sort of infiniteness is not empirically different from plain old boring "very powerful". If by God you simply mean "very powerful", then yes, it is possible for a book to prove itself to be written by God. – Tgr – 2011-07-24T13:33:31.140


It depends on your definition of god. For example, the catholic god has three basic characteristics: all-knowing, all-mighty and eternal.

If a book were to convince any rational person that god was its author, it must be some kind of interactive book (probably more of a website) where I could ask anything and get a correct answer, I could command anything and get it immediately done and somehow it would have the ability to extract me from time – probably experiencing past, future and present at once – thus proving to me it is eternal.

Repeat this logic for the god of your choice and you'll have your answer.

Eduardo Serra

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 201

That is wrong, because for god to be all-knowing he doesn't have to give you answers, even more answers you'd understand, and the fact that he's almighty isn't proven by you getting what you asked for. – iphigenie – 2013-11-19T09:09:48.270

For a God to be all-knowing it does'nt have to give me or anyone else answers, neither it has to prove nothing to noone, but the hypothetical question assumes it wants to show us – Eduardo Serra – 2013-12-04T13:53:47.950


I would have difficulty believing that any text written in a human natural language (HNL) came from a god like the ones described by most religions. The purpose of HNL is to help humans to accomplish human goals, which include acquiring resources, social stability, happiness of self/friends/family, and protection against threats, mostly other humans.

Unlike formal languages, HNL has no clear and precise common basis crucial for reliable communication as in math and science. Mental representation of concepts, words and meanings depend on one's personal, family, and cultural history. HNL is not truth or false-preserving and so it's easy to make anything sound true or false. We use it because everyone can learn it, false ideas can have enormous benefits, it's too hard to find a valid proof or teach everyone how to use a more appropriate language, and it has great manipulative power.

HNL does not exist to find a clear, explicit, truthful, unbiased, minimal representation of how the universe works (sometimes it's the opposite because humans thrive on mystery and stories). That's the goal of science, and that's why science uses formal languages. HNL is completely inappropriate for representing truth.

The most well developed of technologies is psychological and social control through language. Humans have spent tens of thousands of years refining ways to control other humans and we are easily fooled. Using HNL, religious texts are optimized to activate certain human instincts that are difficult to control. A tactic used by the Quran, Bible and salesmen is to put the listener in a certain mindset (thinking about loved ones or punishment for example), which restricts their thought process making it very difficult to think clearly. Another tactic is to use a chain of low probability or unverifiable, contingent "what if" events that lead to a psychologically appealing end. There are many more very effective methods to covertly inject bias into a human's thought process using HNL because that is one of its most valuable uses.

Rationality is relative to an agent's goals and current knowledge of its environment which its idea of truth often contradicts. Thus humans have evolved to cope well with contradictions, by using faith for example. What goals does a healthy, rational human usually have? To find the truth no matter how painful, destructive, possibly disrupting peace, inciting anarchy, or to survive while maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain?

The concept of god(s) is a deeply rooted primal instinct that probably originated from living under and being dependent upon a chieftain, tribal elders or some type of primate leader for millions of years. In all cultures god (or a perfect leader) is a crucial part of a species-wide self control mechanism, so tightly coupled with social stability and personal well-being that all atheists and agnostics (relative to the god of the culture they live in) recognize the danger in announcing their beliefs.

A basic requirement for me is that the text would have to be written in some kind of precise, explicit formal language that is not biased toward humans. Hopefully, I will know enough true facts about the universe already that I can use as a key to decipher the language. It must successfully address the problems with HNL stated above. It would contain all conceivable knowledge, address all valid open questions (it will likely show most questions to be nonsense) and be brutally honest. It can't appear to be concerned with the fate of humanity or morality and it can't be selling a way of life or a way to get anything humans need or want, other than clearly describing the nature of god and the universe. It can say how humans are different but not "special". It will read like a math or science book and some parts will take years to understand. Most of it will be out of reach of my primitive hominid mind. It must not "reek" of humanity or contain stories like most texts, or have any hint of human-like psychology (other than describing explicitly how humans or aliens behave). This may exclude the possibility of a caring, theistic god who would not want such dangerous knowledge to be in my hands.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 91


Each person that reads the book is treated to a complete history of their life, including their thoughts and motivations up to and including their thoughts about what they are reading. Revisiting the text, it is updated to include what has happened since the last time they read it.

Joe Johnson 126

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 111


No. I will hazard that rational individuals have little to no idea of the full capabilities of people in terms of insight. Consequently, it makes no sense to rule out that a book absolutely could not have every gotten written by a person or group of people. A text written by a supernatural god, by its very nature, rules out such a possibility, and thus makes no sense to any rational person.

Doug Spoonwood

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 573

Actually, mathematics makes it quite easy to write things that couldn not be created by any human, but can be understood and verified by humans. – gnasher729 – 2015-09-12T11:32:32.070


When you would read this book for the first time it would be able to predict your thoughts exactly. Then as you would go amazed with it trying to figure out where the catch is - you would do the guessing game, by thinking of the sentence in your mind then reading same exact sentence by opening the page you haven't read before... and book would not miss once....

At this point you should conclude that ether you are high on psychedelics, or suffering from acute schizophrenia....

Book cannot prove God...

EDIT: The point I am trying to make is since you cannot trust your senses (Descartes) no external source (including books) will be reliable to prove/disprove God...

Matas Vaitkevicius

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 1 371


Let's suppose there is some set of conditions C that you personally, as a rational agent, would find uniquely convincing of the existence of God. Let us further specify that set of conditions includes reading a certain page of a certain book at a certain moment, within the larger context of your life --for instance, because it answers a deep life question that you had just consciously formulated just before reading that passage.

For people who have had a conversion experience involving a sacred book, this seems often to be how it happens. Incidentally, perhaps the reason second-hand conversion experiences tend to be uncompelling is that they are so intensely and convincingly personal that they simply don't translate to another person.

It is a similar experience to the one often had by dreamers of having apprehended some great truth, but while awake, and in full command of your faculties.

Chris Sunami supports Monica

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 23 641


The question is unclear, because it is not clear what 'god' means. Assuming some common meanings of 'god' like 'mythological and religious figure with supernatural, mystical, or otherwise currently unexplainable capabilities', the book would have to be able to convey intimate knowledge of such capabilities, including perhaps how to perform alleged miracles or otherwise making it plausible that they are possible.

However, there is a catch. It is well-known that when a civilization with very advanced technology encounters a society with a much lower technological development, the members of the latter might consider those of the first gods, especially if they are prone to superstition. But they would be wrong. A rational person will likely be aware of such examples from human history. If so, he or she would probably not believe that such a book was truly written by a god, as from this perspective it would be more reasonable to assume that the book had been written by the member of a technologically highly advanced society, where 'technology' is meant to be understood in a very broad sense. Hence, unless you think high technological advancement equals to being a god, nothing a book would say or predict ought to convince a rational person that it has been written by a god in the mystical or religious sense of the word.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 1


To convince me that a book is written by God, it will have to contain information only God could know, but which can still be verifiable by me. This is likely impossible.

This is the view of the highest ranked answer to this question. I would posit that if this is how you discern a books chances of being inspired then a positive case can be made for the Bible as being inspired.

Take for instance the first three words in the Bible

In the beginning...

This is a wholly remarkable claim for a person living 3 odd thousands years ago to make. The scientific view of the time was nowhere near thinking that the universe had a beginning.

To be exact it was the work of two physicist named Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson who discovered the background radiation that gave scientific credence to one of the first claims of this archaic and wholly unscientific book. This happened in 60's and 70's just to illustrate to you how recent this discovery really was.

This discovery was deemed so remarkable that the two scientist who discovered this phenomena was both awarded Noble prizes.

Now how do you explain the Bible telling us this thousands of years before these two discovered it? Is it something that only God would have known at that point of history? Seems so. Is it something verifiable today. Yes.

So it seems that if this is your criteria for inspiration of holy books then the Bible passes. I wonder then how does this factor in in those who denounce religions lack of evidence?

Neil Meyer

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 2 161

Any book that starts with "In the beginning ..." is written by (a) god? – Dave – 2014-04-01T19:16:55.917

Any book claiming to inspired and predicting scientific discoveries by three thousand years has a good case for being inspired. – Neil Meyer – 2014-04-07T07:59:33.037

"In the beginning" is no more remarkable than randomly guessing 1 of 3 choices correctly. The only three possibilities (4 if you split the last case into two sub-cases) for the nature of time are finite, infinite in both directions or infinite in one direction. It is even less remarkable considering a goal of religious text is to capture the readers' attention and "in the middle/end" would leave him wondering what happened in the beginning and why is this dumb-ass author not starting in the proper place. – user6552 – 2014-09-03T21:23:00.463

Making a claim using general language (using the common meaning of "predict" instead of the much stricter type used in science) and leaving out details that science would never exclude, one can say that any X predicts any Y. In your linguistic sloppiness you have either lost intellectual integrity or exposed your ignorance of science. Neither the Quran, Bible or any other such text makes any predictions about the natural world even close to the standard of truth, evidence, non-ambiguity, explicit details and linguistic consistency that the most badly written scientific literature maintains. – user6552 – 2014-09-03T23:44:40.970

This answer reminds me of a passage from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. In the book Dostoevsky who was a religious person asks: "God created light on the first day, and the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day. Where did the light come from on the first day?" Today scientists believe that photons indeed preceded the creation of stars in a so called Photon Epoch which started 10 seconds after the Big Bang.

– nir – 2016-11-23T11:56:38.003

@nir The photons you speak of are not all between 400-700 nm. They can be x-rays, gamma rays (deadly to life) or radio (invisible to life). The more important point is that plants require a nearby stable source of visible light photons that can only be produced by a main sequence G2V type star like the sun. – user6552 – 2016-12-31T01:13:36.420

@user6552, right and wrong. In Genesis God proclaims "Let there be light" and according to the Wikipedia "In physics, the term light sometimes refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not." So your point about its wave length seems irrelevant to me. Now, one may wonder the order of creation in genesis is light, then plants, then the sun and moon, and then the living creatures and the "sea-monsters" (http://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.1/en/The_Holy_Scriptures:_A_New_Translation_(JPS_1917)?lang=bi). After all the reasonable order would be sun, light, plants and...

– nir – 2016-12-31T07:36:32.133

...then the animals. A religious person motivated to find correlates between Genesis and science, might propose the following: early after the creation of the universe there was light, then the earth formed, then the seas, then life started in the form of bacteria, then photosynthesis (which Genesis refers to as plants), then the oxygen crisis and the clearing up of the atmosphere, which made the sun and moon visible, then the animals (sea-monsters, possibly referring to dinosaurs?) It is admittedly shaky. For example in Genesis the Sun and stars are said to be created, not just visible... – nir – 2016-12-31T07:47:00.413

...and I don't know if the part about the early atmosphere's translucency has any basis. Why would Genesis predate light, and plants to the creation/appearance of the Sun and the stars? It does not appear to make simple sense. At both extremes, there are people who don't care - a religious person may say, it is simply the word of God, it is nonsensical to try to justify it scientifically, and a secular person may say that it is all nonsense so why bother looking for such correlations. nevertheless I personally find it extremely interesting, and I would not mind a good secular explanation. – nir – 2016-12-31T07:56:00.150

@nir I stopped reading after "wave length seems irrelevant to me" because I already explained why it's relevant, and I did it in one sentence, unlike you droning on with 3 irrelevant paragraphs. It's relevant, either think harder or ask the right person to give you the background that your science teachers failed to give you. With an unscientific poetic interpretation you can make any creation myth match any science or pseudoscience you want. To the creationist, words and ideas are like ingredients they mix together in a soup that must taste good, irrespective of evidence or truth. – user6552 – 2016-12-31T20:19:14.940

@user6552, I believe that the use of insults is a very poor substitute for a proper argument. – nir – 2016-12-31T20:39:44.697

@nir I give a clear sentence of science why you are wrong and you give 3 paragraphs of irrelevant philosophy. Logic, math, philosophy, are worth nothing compared to empiricism done properly. I fail to see how I was insulting but if I was you deserve it for that ridiculous nonsense and wasting everyone's time with your irrelevant biblical myths. Maybe you should surround yourself with people who actually care about truth instead of head nodding and emotional support, and you will be more thick-skinned and not see everything as an insult. – user6552 – 2017-01-01T02:06:24.743

@user6552, ...more insults. I wonder what function they have. – nir – 2017-01-01T04:29:19.647

@nir Myths deserve to be insulted and make fun of when they are anti-science/reality and potentially dangerous, like people believing evil spirits cause illness. If you think there aren't 1000's of modern examples like that which are equally dangerous you're just delusional. Embarrassing, insulting, and joking is a proven effective non-violent way of getting people to think. People who over-use philosophy or prioritize it over science deserve to be ridiculed. Would you try a new drug on your child if there was only philosophy behind it? I think not. – user6552 – 2017-01-03T09:14:18.530

@nir "...very poor substitute for a proper argument" And you're not even using the correct tools to form your "argument". Philosophy is weak, completely unsuitable, and proven unreliable for all but the most low-hanging fruit of knowledge and yet religious people insist that it be used for the biggest questions like origins and universes. It's simply insane. Not just by my intuition, the history of science has PROVEN how unreliable it is. – user6552 – 2017-01-03T09:18:37.180

@user6552, there are many things that people consider to be dangerous. For example, I am particularly worried about the epidemical incapacity of people to exchange ideas in a civil manner, and intolerance in general, and in particular by people who consider them selves to be enlightened or wiser than others — https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-limits-of-discourse. using insults to provoke or promote critical thinking can work up to a point, however my feeling is that you are totally abusing this method — in fact to the point of suspecting that maybe you suffer from Tourette syndrome.

– nir – 2017-01-03T10:19:31.300

@user6552, ...anyway I assure you that your insults have none of the intended effects on me, and therefore I propose that you try the path of a civil discussion. Finally, I believe it is for your own good since more often than not people who are exposed to such exchanges perceive the side delivering the insults as rude and idiotic. you almost had me convinced that you are an idiot, but luckily I read the fine answer you posted to the OP and realized that you can actually think and express your self beautifully when you want to. – nir – 2017-01-03T10:31:29.503

@nir I have great tolerance as long as the types, sources and limitations of knowledge are recognized, which they are not by you and anyone else who believes in a personal god. What you did, what all arguments for god do, is like we were in court, and you claim the defendant is a witch. "...you suffer from Tourette syndrome" The religious are so predictable, I could have guessed you would turn into a expert mind-reader/psychoanalyst in order to deflect the discussion away from your mistakes. – user6552 – 2017-01-05T05:35:23.803

@user6552, How did you conclude that I don't recognize the limitations of knowledge, or that I believe in a personal God? to the extent that I understood what you mean by these claims, they are both false. – nir – 2017-01-05T08:41:05.427


"What would it take in a book to convince a rational person that it had been written by or directly inspired by a god?"

What would serve as the best evidence?

HOW DOES ONE ASCERTAIN WHAT IS THE BEST EVIDENCE? I can experience a circumstance, and know first hand what happened, and consider that to be the best evidence as to what it is I experienced. I may then conclude "experience is the best evidence."

But, how do I share that experience with another who has not experienced the same thing? "Experience" suddenly goes from being "best evidence" to being "subjective claim." And may even go from "subjective claim" to "Misinterpretation of events." I would need to be almost an expert in some field in order to properly apply the interpretation of events into a proper application of facts, in order to reach a proper conclusion about the meaning of anything, from stimuli, to the meaning of my (subjective) reactions to stimuli, before I could communicate to another, just exactly what it was by which I was "stimulated."

But one thing I know, My "experience" is really that something took place "as I understand it."

So I then begin to look for a way to share my "experience" in a way that removes all doubt that the event took place, and that its ramifications are in line with my understanding of what they mean. How to share THAT becomes my goal.

So I begin to testify as to every aspect of my experience, and tell loud and long about what it is that I perceive took place, only to have someone respond, "Yes, that looks like what happened, but how do we know you didn't write about it from someone else's record of events. In other words, how do we know it was YOU who experienced it? And if YOU did not experience it, but only recorded it for our information, how do we know it even happened according to your testimony? So, testimony may be better than experience, but still does not satisfy as "best evidence." There must be something more ABOUT testimony that presents itself as "best evidence."

I then inquire into "kinds" of testimony; there must be a certain kind of testimony that serves as "best evidence" for sharing an experience. Immediately I think "of course, it must be "first hand" testimony. "Eye witness" testimony become the focus of my search, only to have someone point out, "yes, eye witness testimony certainly beats second or third party testimony, known as "hearsay" evidence, but what if you have conflicting testimony from several "eye" witnesses? Back to the drawing board.

O.K. What if I describe events AS THEY HAPPEN, is that not equivalent to letting you share in reality? Does that not consist of "proof?" Well, not quite. THAT assumes the accuracy of my subjective reporting of events, as being objectively reporting. In other words, do I allow my own prejudices to color my reporting? Is my reporting "subjective" or is it "objective?"

Suppose I discover a way to share with you an event that has not yet happened? I find a way to include details that are easy to look for? I even name names of persons that do not yet exist? Suppose that event takes place generations later, and the person involved has the name I said he would have, and the events happen as I outlined them in the telling?

THAT WOULD BE THE BEST EVIDENCE. I tell you of an event that will take place two hundred years in the future, name the person involved, tell you what he will do, and even convince HIM, the person I name, that I am real BECAUSE I could name him well in advance of the factual demonstration.


One who said "I AM GOD," named a man who is going to allow the children of Israel to return from captivity, Over two hundred years before he was born. But the children of Israel were not even IN captivity when God wrote about it. They had no reason to believe they would BE in captivity for they were not even at war with anybody when it was written.

God told about a king that would send the children of Israel back to Jerusalem, to rebuild the temple, which at the time of writing had not even been destroyed. They would also rebuild the walls of the city, which at the time of writing had not been destroyed.

What is the best evidence? "FORETELLING IN DETAIL" of events not remotely likely to happen, is the best evidence that God wrote the bible. If He can produce statements about a foreign king sending the children of Israel back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, not yet destroyed, and rebuild the walls of the city, not yet destroyed, and name the foreign king by name, there is no evidence stronger among men.

God named Cyrus, king of Persia, as his "anointed,"

Beginning in Isaiah 44:28 Jehovah God said of Cyrus, king of Persia -

"He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

"Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; 2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: 3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel."[Isa 45:1-3]

AFTER NAMING CYRUS, GOD TELLS WHY HE NAMED HIM. "For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 THAT THEY MAY KNOW from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I AM JEHOVAH [THE LORD], and there is none else.[Isa 45:4-6]

No other God named among men has EVER performed such a happening. There is no religion among men who has a God who could do such a thing. ONLY Jehovah, The God of Israel, ever told events two hundred years prior to the happening, and told the name of the one who would perform the act.

THAT is not only the "best evidence" because it not only can be expected by later generations, it can be verified as to accuracy, and it can be witnessed by doubters, and proved to THEIR satisfaction, leaving no doubt remaining. CYRUS king of Persia was convinced, as were the children of Israel.

PRETESTIMONY is the best evidence. God pretestified as to the events, the person, the how, the when, and the why. ANY God who can do THAT, has the right to tell us of man's origins, and how we should respond to the reality of who and what we are, as God's image.

And He even tells us of the inspiration aspect of the book authored by Him - Deuteronomy 18:18 - "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, (Moses) and will put MY WORDS in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I command him."

Isaiah 51:16 states - "And I have put MY WORDS in thy mouth..."

Jeremiah 1:9 Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, "Behold, I have put my (logos) WORDS in thy mouth." Many other verses proclaim the same thing; It is God's word that the prophets proclaimed.

Concerning what was written, Exo 24:4 says, "And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord..." and verse 12; And the Lord said unto Moses, come up to me into the mount, and be there. And I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I HAVE WRITTEN; that thou mayest teach them. And Exo 31:18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, WRITTEN WITH THE FINGER OF GOD. Exo 34:27 And the Lord said unto Moses, WRITE THOU THESE WORDS: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. With MANY other words, God testifies as to his authorship of his book. So, God tells us he wrote the bible, and who is there among us who can "prove" that NOT to be the case?

Later testimony of eye-witnesses verified to the minutia of detail that was fulfilled. And eye-witness testimony does not have to be reiterated to each succeeding generation, in order to be declared "valid" or "true." It only has to be proved once for all time, which it was by the eyewitness accounts of those who were sent back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city, and rebuild the temple.


Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 1

Welcome to philosophy.se! Yesterday I met someone, who told me, that today I will comment on a post of someone named "havoc". Do you believe, he is god? No? Why not? It was pretestimony, and you see his story written right here! If you are rational, you don't believe my story! So what could convince a rational person, that a book was written or inspired by god? – Einer – 2014-10-17T13:03:37.987

To make up a story on the spot is not remotely like pretestimony. If yesterday, you had said "Tomorrow I will comment on a post written by someone named "havoc" I would possibly be impressed. Not convinced as coincidence can still account for such in the matter of one day; but 200 years is not coincidence, especially when God named Cyrus before even the parents of Cyrus were born; to prename by 200 years requires either deity or family conspiracy. – havoc – 2014-10-17T14:38:54.060

And if I tell you, that my great-great-great Grandma already knew, that I will comment on someone named "havoc"? My point is: You didn't believe my story - that's only rational: Telling something that is hard to believe, doesn't increase the credibility of a source. It makes it more irrational to believe it. And the question was, what makes it rational to believe, that a book was written or inspired by a deity. – Einer – 2014-10-17T17:05:34.447

How can you equate pretestimony 200 years ahead of the fact, with an attempt to "make it up as you go" 7 hours after the fact? It appears you have completely missed the significance of my point. Several generations of prehistory is not equivalent to several minutes of retrohistory. – havoc – 2014-10-17T20:03:09.787

I can lie. Already knowing what happened, I can pretend that somebody foretold it. The probability that somebody lies is greater than the probability that someone/something accurately foretells something. The probability that someone makes an incredible story up is always greater than the probability that something incredible happened. Hume wrote about this.

– Einer – 2014-10-18T11:23:48.827

A Philosophers "probability" is self defined as "what will probably happen exactly when I need that particular something to happen. All "probabilities" have exactly the same chance of "happening;" i.e., fifty/fifty/ it will or it won't. One's particular philosophy based on a particular need will not change that. – havoc – 2014-10-18T23:38:20.463

havoc, I believe you are missing Einer's point. Can you establish (prove) the date when Isaiah 44:28 was written? If it was written after Cyrus was king, then it looses its credibility. – Guill – 2015-02-10T07:30:50.463


It's impossible, because a rational man cannot be convinced to believe anything. A rational man doesn't believe things because he has reached a place where he knows the difference between knowledge and belief and no longer can believe anything. When he does believe it's not intentional and therefore he is not rational in that aspect.

Convincing an irrational man to believe something is possible, but convincing a rational man to know something is not. A man can only come to know things through empirical induction and deduction. Believing something doesn't require deductively sound arguments or inductively strong arguments, it just requires clever arguments.

Assuming God exists implies God is omniscient. In order make someone understand anything, you must study it. It would be impossible for an human to understand what is claimed of God - that God is omniscient. You would need to either know all of God's mind or most of it to have a deductive or inductively strong understanding of God.

In order to think something was inspired by God, you have to have a basis of knowledge about who inspired it, far before you can say something came from this being.

Since God can never be understood because of the outrageous claim of omniscience, a rational man could not know or be convinced a book was inspired by God.

Jordan Evans

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 101

a rational man cannot be convinced to believe anything maybe the highest standard of proof I've ever heard. You may want to review contemporary work in epistemology and on the nature of belief. – virmaior – 2016-11-26T05:30:00.327

I'm guessing we both have different stipulations for belief. Mine primarily, as I tried to indicated in my answer, is a claim that has no empirical basis or weak empirical inductive argument. Could you give me one example or link to your stipulation of belief? I'd be happy to take a peek. – Jordan Evans – 2016-11-28T17:01:52.160


Everyone seems to take certain knowledge of a proposition as meaning that it's negation must be logically impossible. As Wittgenstein argued if the negation of a proposition is logically impossible so also is that proposition, that is to say one is not really dealing with a proposition at all in such circumstances. To know x, not x must be logically possible or else there is no x to be known. It's logically possible a God planted fossils to test our faith. That doesn't mean we can't know he didn't. In fact it must be logically possible that he did before we can know he didn't. Would we say we can't know it's raining because it's logically possible millions of demons are spitting on us?

Giles Humphry

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 19

2This does not answer the question that was asked. – Eric '3ToedSloth' – 2013-03-18T14:36:43.767


I mention one reason. This reason is brought forward by Quran.

Write something similar

Now, if you (or anyone else) can write something similar, then screw God and be happy, because you have proved that the book is not by God. But if you (or anyone else) can't write a similar book, then ...

Saeed Neamati

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 1 683

9The problem with this seems to be that a lot of people have. For example, if you believe that the Quran was written by God, what about the Bible? Clearly that wasn't written by God, so it must have been written by man. But it's awfully similar to the Quran. – Cody Gray – 2011-07-15T15:35:11.860

In that case, I think we can conclude that No book is written by God. :) – Saeed Neamati – 2011-07-15T17:15:32.657

1This answers the inverse question: Are the "divinely inspired" books of today written by or directly inspired by a God? It doesn't answer the OP's question, i.e. whether any book could theoretically be constructed such that it would convince a rational person that it was written by a deity. So while your point is reasonable it's been downvoted because it's not really an answer to the question. :( – stoicfury – 2012-02-29T16:53:42.827


Quran gives such a test of authenticity of authorship.

Quran says in verse 82, Nissa chapter, Do they not study Quran (with care)? Had it been from other than Allah (God), they would surely have found therein much contradiction.

Quran contains many logical arguments regarding the necessity of a creator and that the creator must be unique. This kind of logic in the Quran is a higher order logic. Quran does not ask for a blind faith. Quran wants the believers to examine the facts and then make a decision to accept or reject. So, my advice to you if you want to know, read Quran and make up your mind about who wrote the book.

Here is my own experience. I consider my self a rational man of science and I earned my PhD in computer engineering. Every time I read Quran I get more convinced that Quran is not written by any human and Quran is the words of Allah, my creator.

One such example of knowledge of the type you are looking for in the Quran is the statement of the Quran that everything is created in pairs which is only understood just recently when we discovered that elementary particles come in pairs which we call matter and antimatter. For instance, electron and positron pair.

If Quran was from any source other than Allah (God) then we would find many logical contradictions. These contradictions could be internal between different parts of Quran or external with indisputable facts. For instance, many claimed that there are contradictions in Quran. For example, they cite that Quran states that ants talk to each other in the story of Prophet Solomon with ants( Ants chapter, verse 18). Just recently, scientists discovered in 2009 that ants "talk" to each other using sound produced by its abdomen. See this ABC News clip about the discovery.

Mohammad Al-Turkistany

Posted 2011-06-23T03:34:33.547

Reputation: 99

9-1 There is no reason why any book not written by Allah should contain much contradiction. So finding much contradiction in Quran could prove that it is not written by Allah, but the opposite is not true. – Thomas Klimpel – 2013-02-04T22:34:05.003

But ants don't talk like people, that is they do not use words. The fact is that there are many coincidences out there. If they were not sensitive to sounds, you would have said they "talk" through smell sense and so on... – Theta30 – 2013-02-24T18:53:14.293

"...contains many logical arguments...": It is easy to create valid arguments that have no connection with reality. "... examine the facts and then make a decision to accept or reject": Practically speaking this decision usually takes place in the extreme ignorance of youth, under social/psychological pressure, threats of violence, taxing, control and/or oppression by believers. "...everything is created in pairs...": This type of wording is ambiguous, general, imprecise, unscientific linguistic sloppiness that can be easily interpreted to fit into either side of any argument. – user6552 – 2014-09-04T00:40:49.863