Does Love Exist? The Burden Of Proof.

When I say, “I love my family,” most people respond, “That’s wonderful!”  When I say, “There is a God,” many people demand, “Prove it scientifically!  You now bear the burden of proof!”  Yet, there is more empirical evidence to support the existence of God than my love of family.  Why such doubt and skepticism about God?

It is complained that “Religion has caused wars, deaths and oppression.”  Has not love triggered the jealousy of many a murderer?  Has not love broken the hearts of people and led to crimes of passion?  Was it not love for a beautiful woman that launched a thousand ships and led to the destruction of Troy?  Isn’t it love that people seek after, often to the point of despair and anguish?  Isn’t it really a longing to love and to be loved that imprisons and oppresses many a heart?  Why do we not hear anyone demanding that the existence of love be proved scientifically?  Why has the burden of scientific proof not been placed on those who love?

Can love ever be scientifically proven to exist?  Is it simply a chemical reaction or a firing of nerves?  Where does love come from?  What exactly is a “broken heart?”  How many people would be satisfied by a scientific explanation of why their lovers were unfaithful to them?  Is love simply an evolutionary adaptation for human mating?  Why am I able to love people that I cannot or will not mate with?  Why am I able to feel love, or affection or sentiment towards a childhood toy?  Why form attachments to inanimate objects or places?  When I say, “I love being here,” no one responds, “Prove it!”

A woman may want a man to prove his love for her.  He may try with all his might to no avail, or he might succeed.  The outcome depends on the woman and her level of trust.  Different people will draw different conclusions.  Does he love her or not?

It has been hypothesized that there is no such thing as pure altruism.  Every good deed has an ulterior motive no matter how generous or self sacrificing it may be.  A good deed is partly done to make the doer feel “good” in even the slightest way.  Hence, the act is not purely altruistic, since it contains the least bit of selfishness.  So, can love really exist at all?  Are we all just walking around foolishly believing in something that does not even exist?  “No,” says the lover.  “My love is real.”

The belief in love is not based on science but on faith.  We give and receive love in good faith, all the while risking the possibility of a broken heart.  Why is it so hard, then, to believe in God?  The poet who writes, “I’ll say goodbye to love” has done so from a broken heart.  Those who reject love have been hurt.  I think the same applies to God, for God is love.  God does not cease to exist, but, in our wounded state, we may reject his existence.  Science cannot resolve such a dilemma any more than it can conclusively determine if, or exactly how much, I love my family.

23 thoughts on “Does Love Exist? The Burden Of Proof.

  1. NotAScientist

    “Yet, there is more empirical evidence to support the existence of God than my love of family. ”

    No, there really isn’t.

    If you want to compare your god to an emotion, though, I’m completely behind that.

    Reply
      1. NotAScientist

        Because I can give examples of love and how it is shown between two people. I can show the brain waves that are associated with those actions and that emotion.

        I cannot do the same with your god.

        Why is there not? The best explanation is probably that it doesn’t exist.

      2. Thomas Post author

        But how do you “know” that those brainwaves are “love” and not just the overt effects of love, like leaves visibly rustling in the invisible wind? What is the origin of love and how can you pinpoint it scientifically? I’m not claiming that God can be proven scientifically. I’m suggesting that we take other things on faith with no “burden of proof,” so why not God? In fact, it would seem that when we look at brainwaves, we are accepting on faith that our eyes are not deceiving us.

      3. NotAScientist

        “I’m suggesting that we take other things on faith with no “burden of proof,””

        You’re wrong, if you include me when you say ‘we take’. I don’t take anything on faith.

        Love is an emotion that causes/influences a number of behaviors. We have evidence of those behaviors, we have the statements of people that they feel empathy and affection. That is really all that is required to show, scientifically, that an emotion exists.

        To show a being of some kind exists you need a lot more evidence.

      4. Thomas Post author

        Hmm…I suppose I’ll have to take it on faith that you take nothing on faith. I don’t see how that can be empirically verified.

        But “why” does love exist?

      5. NotAScientist

        “I don’t see how that can be empirically verified.”

        Simple. Name things. If I agree that I believe them based on faith, then I will thank you kindly and stop believing that thing.

        “But “why” does love exist?”

        Why do you assume that’s a valid question?

      6. Thomas Post author

        Not so simple from my end. How can I know you are telling the truth? I’m still taking your word on faith.

        Because the “why” is a part of scientific inquiry.

      7. NotAScientist

        “Not so simple from my end. How can I know you are telling the truth? I’m still taking your word on faith.”

        No. You are trusting me on something very unimportant.

        If you tell me you own a dog, I will believe you. Could you be lying? Sure. But it’s an unimpressive claim, and so I lose nothing through the belief.

        If you tell me you own a flying dog, I need more evidence than your word.

        That’s the difference between love and god. One’s a dog, there other is a dog with wings.

        “Why’ isn’t part of scientific inquiry. What and how are.

      8. Thomas Post author

        Without the “why” no one bothers to ask the what and the how. “Why did that apple fall on my head?”

        Just for laughs.

        I see what you mean about the importance. Context makes something more important, too. You might say, “Oh, I don’t take that on faith” simply to save face in a particular discussion (not that I’m accusing you of doing that). So, it becomes more important to me than it otherwise might be.

        Anyway, keep looking and perhaps you will discover something you take on faith.

      9. Thomas Post author

        Why would anyone care or want to know what caused it? Does it have to be either/or? Can it not be both/and? Why and what? In terms of pure science, I see your point. Pure science explores what and how. But “why” can at least trigger the scientific inquiry. One could ask why the apple fell as easily as how it fell to begin the process. Life is not pure science. Why should God be restricted to that? Why not ask why?

  2. Atomic Mutant

    I totally agree. Your love and your god both exist – inside your head. Well done. Sorry, what did you expect? Nobody claims that “love” is a person that did something. If you tried to tell people, the Cupid existed, they WOULD tell you, to show proof.

    Reply
      1. Atomic Mutant

        For one person? Hm, not at the moment, no. Perhaps when Neuroscience got a little bit better. For all people? Yes. Simply ask enough of them if they feel “love”. Yes? Then that’s strong evidence that a feeling exists that people call “love” and until other evidence emerges, we’ll go with Occam’s razor and take the simple explanation, that the brain is NOT a radio station. Same with god. Not that hard.
        Can you prove that god has an existence of it’s own, outside people’s heads?

      2. Thomas Post author

        No. I’m not claiming that I can scientifically prove God. I’m suggesting that people take other things on faith besides God. Love is perhaps one of those things. When my wife tells me she loves me, it would probably be a bad idea for me to say, “Can I take you to the lab and prove your love empirically before I believe you? I gotta see those brain waves!” 🙂

      3. Atomic Mutant

        If you wife told you, to give up your life, live by totally different rules, accept various limitations, etc. – then you should probably be sure that she loves you before you agree, don’t you think?
        Anyway, love would still just be a feeling in your head. If that’s what god is, ok.

      4. Thomas Post author

        That’s actually kind of what happened. By committing to her I had to give up my single life, live by different rules, accept limitations, accept the changes that children bring into life, etc. Every gain has a loss, as they say. So, yes, I did want to have some reason to believe that her love was genuine. Nevertheless, it was not pure science. It never is. Love comes with an inherent element of risk. One can never be 100% scientifically sure when it comes to love. Yet, people accept it on faith. And it does change their lives, often in sacrificial ways.

        If love is simply a feeling in my head, how can I give it to someone else? I may be able to prompt similar feelings in another person, but I can’t give them mine. How does love switch from a noun to a verb; from a “thing in my head” to a “gift?”

  3. Allallt

    At the start you’ve confused giving evidence that a thing exists and giving reasons for why a thing has come into being i.e. you talk about answering questions of why you love certain things, when the initial question was of “do you love?”

    Love is very different from questions of God. Love exists in the mind (and in neuroscience and chemistry — but it is experienced in the mind). God is supposed to exist outside of the mind. Things that are meant to exist in the mind are very different from thing that are meant to exist outside.

    I wrote a post about this a while ago, perhaps you’d like to read it. (http://allallt.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/what-is-love)

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Keep in mind that these posts are merely personal reflections (and that I’m also trying to juggle two three year olds as I write :-).

      Anyway, as I understand it, God is not a being that can be compartmentalized (inside vs outside) but is the very essence of being itself.

      Reply
      1. Allallt

        Keep in mind that I have no idea what that means. So, I’ll reword my distinction between love and God. Love exists, but dependent on the mind. (I imagine) you assert God exists independent of the mind.
        Therefore, they are different claims.

        But the post I shared is how you could investigate love.

  4. Agellius

    NotAScientist:

    You write, “No. You are trusting me on something very unimportant. If you tell me you own a dog, I will believe you. Could you be lying? Sure. But it’s an unimpressive claim, and so I lose nothing through the belief. If you tell me you own a flying dog, I need more evidence than your word. That’s the difference between love and god. One’s a dog, there other is a dog with wings.”

    What evidence would you accept for God’s existence?

    Reply

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